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ConflictsBurkina Faso

Al-Qaida frees Australian doctor after seven years

May 19, 2023

The Australian doctor and his wife were kidnapped by al-Qaida-linked extremists in northern Burkina Faso. The couple had been running their medical clinic for four decades in the landlocked country.

Soldiers patroling on a truck
Kenneth Elliott and his wife were kidnapped by al-Qaida in northern Burkina Faso in 2016, here soldiers patrol near a refugee campImage: Olympia de Maismont/AFP/Getty Images

Al-Qaida-linked extremists released an Australian doctor after holding him captive for more than seven years in West Africa, the Australian government said on Friday.

The 88-year-old doctor Kenneth Elliott from the west coast city of Perth is safe and has been reunited with his family, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement.

Elliott's wife, Jocelyn, was also kidnapped with him, but she was released within a few weeks.

Without giving details of his release, Wong said that the Australian government and the Elliott family have worked tirelessly toward Elliott's release.

"We wish to express our thanks to God and all who have continued to pray for us," Elliott's family said in a statement released by the Foreign Ministry.

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"At 88 years of age, and after many years away from home, Dr. Elliott now needs time and privacy to rest and rebuild strength. We thank you for your understanding and sympathy," his family said.

The Elliotts' kidnapping by al-Qaida

Elliott and his wife, Jocelyn, were kidnapped by the Islamic extremists in 2016. They were picked up from northern Burkina Faso, close to the border with Mali, where the couple had been running their 120-bed medical clinic for 40 years.

Jocelyn was released after three weeks in captivity. She was released in neighboring Niger with the efforts of the then Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou. To secure Jocelyn's release, he worked with Burkina Faso's intelligence services, his office had said at the time.

Back then, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb had said it would release the woman unconditionally because of public pressure and the rulings from leaders not to involve women in war.

They were abducted the same day al-Qaida militants raided a restaurant and hotel in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, killing 30 people.

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mf/sms (AP, Reuters)