We would not write that the women were taken. This is reported indirect speech, and the speaker's tenses are ‘backshifted’; were taken would be employed only if the official's actual words had been
“The women are taken to &c”
That would be idiomatic English only if the official were speaking of repeated abductions over a period of time—“Every time a woman is abucted she is taken to...”—which strikes me as unlikely. What the official probably said was
“The women are being taken ...”
The progressive form signifies that the movement was not, at the time of speaking, complete: perhaps the women were still in transit, or only some had been taken north and it was intended to move the rest.
If the movement was complete at the time of speaking, a perfect construction would be used:
“The women have been taken ...” → The official said that the women had been taken ...