Two Canadian women kidnapped from golf club in Ghana


Two Canadian women have been abducted in Ghana, police said Thursday, a rare attack in a country seen as one of the most secure in the West African region.

The Canadians, charity volunteers aged 19 and 20, were taken on Tuesday evening in Kumasi, Ghana’s second city, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) northwest of the capital Accra, David Eklu, Assistant Commissioner of Police said in a statement.

“Police Command is investigating a complaint of kidnapping at Ahodwo, Kumasi Royal Golf Club, at 8:25 pm on 4 June 2019, where two women of Canadian nationality were kidnapped,” Eklu said.

“Investigation started immediately upon receipt of the complaint, and the security agencies are working closely together to get them rescued, and the perpetrators arrested,” he added.

Police did not release the names of the women.

But they said they are volunteers with a group Youth Challenge International, a Canadian international development organisation with its headquarters in Toronto.

The group works in 16 countries across South America, Africa and Asia, working to support development projects for young people in areas such as health, education and employment.

“The general public is urged to assist the police by volunteering information,” Eklu added.

Security sources suggested this was a kidnapping for ransom.

– Appeal to the public –

Kidnappings and violent crime towards foreigners are rare in Ghana.

But earlier this year, local media quoted President Nana Akufo-Addo as warning that action must be taken to make sure kidnapping “doesn’t become a feature of our society.”

In April, an Indian man was reportedly abducted, also in Kumasi, by an armed gang demanding a cash ransom. He was swiftly rescued by police.

Tourism is an important industry for Ghana, and Kumasi, the historic capital of the Ashanti kingdom, is a favourite destination.

Ghana is a country of some 30 million people, where more than two-thirds of people follow Christianity and the rest of Islam and other religions.

Akufo-Addo, speaking on Wednesday to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al Fitr, called on the Ghanaian people to protect religious tolerance.

“We are the envy of the world when it comes to the peaceful co-existence of different religious communities,” Akufo-Addo said in a speech, according to the presidency.

He also urged people to “report suspicious characters” to the police.

“We cannot surrender this beautiful way of life for anything, and, certainly, not to people who seek to pervert religious beliefs,” Akufo-Addi added.


Image: Visitors walk past the Huawei booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Feb. 27, 2017.

But it wasn’t until Trump launched a trade war with China that Huawei also became a leverage point for Trump, alternately increasing and relieving pressure on the company in order to get larger concessions from China. That has been cause for alarm among politicians and security experts who have recommended a hard line toward the company.

Senators from both parties responded to Trump’s move with either words of caution or outright dissension.

“If President Trump has agreed to reverse recent sanctions against #Huawei he has made a catastrophic mistake,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted Saturday, adding that he would pursue legislation to put restrictions back in place.

“I would like to see the details, but we need to remember that Huawei represents a threat to our national security,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said in an email. “Allowing Huawei to participate in building our next generation communications networks should be unacceptable for everyone. If the President’s deal goes too far, Congress would certainly act to reverse it.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday and made clear that he still sees Huawei as a threat and said he hoped the president’s concessions did not go too far.

“If they’re minor exceptions, that’s okay, but if we’re selling Huawei major technology, that would be a mistake,” Graham said.

Nate Jones, co-founder of the consulting firm Culper Partners and a former deputy general counsel for Microsoft, said that it’s hard to parse what part of Huawei’s business relationships with U.S. companies could not be construed as touching national security.

He said that even if the Trump administration were to keep in place the ban that prevents companies from buying Huawei products to build out American infrastructure, easing restriction on what Huawei can buy from U.S. companies would only make the company’s products more attractive abroad, where Trump has less control over what countries and companies do.

“You really lose trust in the security of those things pretty quickly,” said Jones, who also served on the National Security Council in the Obama administration.

Though Kudlow sought to assuage worries that Trump had given in, the tech industry reacted to the news with optimism that business with Huawei would soon resume. The Semiconductor Industry Association, a trade group made up of many tech companies that make crucial tech hardware including the computer chips necessary for modern computing, applauded the move.

“The progress made today by President Trump and President Xi [Jinping] in Osaka, Japan, is good news for the semiconductor industry, the overall tech sector, and the world’s two largest economies,” John Neuffer, president and CEO of the Semiconductor Industry Association, said in an emailed statement. “We are encouraged the talks are restarting and additional tariffs are on hold and we look forward to getting more detail on the president’s remarks on Huawei.”

Investors shared in the cheerfulness. Shares in chipmakers rose sharply Monday.

Recent high school graduate Amani Sparks missing from Kansas since mid-May


High school graduations are full of relief. Maura DeHerrea said that’s how she felt at her niece Amani Sparks’s graduation from Leavenworth High School in Leavenworth, Kansas on May 18.

“She did good, getting to graduation,” Maura told Dateline. “When she was a junior, she was big into the drama department. She helped with the sets. But she struggled to keep her grades up senior year.”

Amani Sparks
Amani SparksMaura DeHerrea

After graduation, Maura said she, Amani, and other loved ones gathered at a family member’s house to celebrate Amani’s achievement. After opening some graduation gifts, 17-year-old Amani said she was going to go stay with a close friend for a couple of days as the friend was moving away soon.

“She was wearing her graduation gown when she left,” Maura told Dateline, adding that her niece drove off in the family’s red 2001 Ford Escape.

Maura said her sister, Amani’s mother Sara Sparks, didn’t find it odd to not hear from Amani for a couple of days since she knew Amani was spending time with her friend. But after four days went by with no word from the teenager, Sara grew concerned.

“[Amani’s mother Sara] called Amani and she didn’t answer,” Maura told Dateline. “So she texted Amani and said she had to bring the car home.”

According to Maura and the Leavenworth Police Department, a message came back from Amani’s phone saying “ok,” which family took to believe that Amani would bring the car home. But Amani never returned.

“Either she really did send the text or someone has her phone and was able to text from it,” Maura said. “Because anyone can text from your phone.”

According to the Leavenworth Police Department, Amani’s mother Sara called to report her daughter missing on June 12. Major Dan Nicodemus told Dateline an officer was sent to her residence that day.

“We immediately entered Amani into the National Crime Information Center as a missing juvenile,” Maj. Nicodemus told Dateline. “It’s a national database. So if she comes into contact with any law enforcement anywhere across the country, it alerts them that she is missing from here.”

Major Nicodemus said officers have since spoken to the friend with whom Amani told family she would be staying with for those few days. According to Amani’s aunt Maura, the friend said Amani was supposed to come over that day – but she never arrived.

“And the friend says she hasn’t had contact with Amani since,” Maj. Nicodemus added.

Amani does have access to a car – the family’s red 2001 Ford Escape with the Kansas license plate 069-DAV that she was driving after the graduation party. But her aunt Maura said the car wasn’t in good condition and couldn’t handle a long road trip. Regardless, Maura told Dateline she has checked multiple in-state and out-of-state impound lots. The car has not been found.

Amani was last seen driving a car identical to this one, with the Kansas license plate 069-DAV. This is not the exact car Amani was seen driving.
Amani was last seen driving a car identical to this one, with the Kansas license plate 069-DAV. This is not the exact car Amani was seen driving.Aryn Sparks

Amani’s Aunt Maura said Amani had $100 in cash at the time from combined graduation presents, but she did not have access to a bank account and didn’t take many clothes with her. Maura said Amani does have a pre-paid phone with her, and authorities say they’re currently trying to ping the phone’s location.

“We are currently working on tracking the phone and are waiting for phone records to come back,” Maj. Nicodemus told Dateline. “One of the prerequisites to get phone records without a subpoena is to demonstrate an emergency, and we can’t demonstrate that right now.”

Since Amani’s disappearance, a few of her friends have told family that Amani may have met a St. Louis, Missouri man on a dating website. The friends weren’t able to provide the name of the man, though, and police said they “don’t have any information on who that man is.”

“Regardless of the circumstances, her family cares about her. We’re going to keep looking till we find her,” Maj. Nicodemus told Dateline. “We’ll gladly take any information we can get about where Amani is.”

“She’s an awesome person — awesome with young children, awesome with her nieces and nephews. Very slow to lose her patience,” Maura said. “This is all very scary.”

Amani Sparks turned 18 years old since she disappeared. Amani is described as being 5’6” and weighing 135lbs., with dark brown hair and brown eyes. If you have information, please contact the Leavenworth Police Department at 913-651-2260 or 911.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


June 2019