Burkina Faso minister says missing Quebecer Edith Blais is alive, removed from territory

A senior minister with Burkina Faso's government says a Canadian woman and her Italian companion who have been missing in West Africa since last December are alive and no longer in his country.

Communications Minister Remis Fulgance Dandjinou tells Italian public broadcaster Rai that Edith Blais of Sherbrooke, and her travel companion, Luca Taccheto of Italy, are not in danger.

In an interview broadcast on Friday, Dandjinou says he is hopeful the pair can be located and brought home safe and sound.

Blais, 34, and Taccheto, 30, were travelling by car in southwestern Burkina Faso when they vanished in December.

They were en route to Togo, where they planned to do volunteer work with an aid group.

Dandjinou's comments seem to back up a recent report by Human Rights Watch that indicated the pair had been abducted and taken to Mali.

That report, published March 22 on the advocacy group's website, did not mention the fate of the two travellers.

In a January statement, Burkina Faso's government referred to the pair's disappearance as a kidnapping, but the Canadian government did not confirm that.

Ottawa has said it is not ruling out any possibilities, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in January he believed Blais was still alive.