Maritimers relieved after UNB students kidnapped in Ghana rescued
People across the country are breathing a sigh of relief after two young women from the Maritimes were rescued Wednesday morning after spending just over a week as hostages in Ghana.
Lauren Tilley, of Rothesay, N.B., and Bailey Chitty, of Amherst, N.S., are alive, and OK.
The two were held hostage in a compound about two hours southeast of Kumasi, Ghana.
Police say they were kidnapped last Tuesday at gunpoint.
“Preliminary indications that we have is that they are fine,” said Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, the Minister of Information for Ghana.
Police in Ghana have confirmed the authenticity of a video of two men being arrested in connection with the case. It took all of 25 minutes from start to finish.
In total, officials say five Ghanaians and three Nigerian nationals are in custody.
Tilley and Chitty are headed home.
“As a parent of four daughters, I can just imagine what the family is going through,” said New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs. “I certainly was aware of the family, but it's great news to find that they have been rescued … it’s a relief for all of us.”
Tilley, 20, and Chitty, 19, are both University New Brunswick students who were taking part in an internship through the Renaissance College program.
Youth Challenge International facilitated the volunteer trip and said the students are getting emotional and psychological support.
A university spokesperson had this to say: “Even though we're incredibly pleased to see a successful resolution, we need to respect the privacy of our students and their families. The students and their families have been, and continue to be, our number one priority, and not engaging publicly is how we can continue to support them.”
UNB's Renaissance College is based at an off-campus residence in the heart of Fredericton's downtown
The program offers students the ability to get their degree in three years, in part because of these internships.
Amherst's mayor says the community is “beyond thankful, grateful and relieved,” and Rothesay-area MLA Ted Flemming says he knows the Tilley family as constituents and is very glad their daughter is safe.
“Who could be anything but fabulously relieved that she's been rescued,” said Flemming. “So, it's a wonderful story.”
Green Party Leader David Coon called it an extraordinary situation.
“I have a daughter the age of one of the girls, who's also at university, and it touched me like a lot of people in the Fredericton area,” Coon said.
There are nine different international internships associated with renaissance college.
In 2015, the university ended its placement in Burkina Faso, because of safety concerns.
UNB has said it monitors travel advisories daily, and are in constant contact with students who are spending time out of the country.
Canadian consular officials have taken over and are providing assistance to the women and their families.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.