An 88-year-old Australian doctor held captive in West Africa for more than seven years has been released and safely returned to his family, the Australian government has announced.
Kenneth Elliott, from the west coast city of Perth, is safe and well and has been reunited with his wife Jocelyn and their children, Australia Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement on Friday.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
“We extend our thanks to the Australian officials who have worked over many years to secure Dr Elliott’s release and to provide support to his family,” Wong said.
Elliott and his wife were kidnapped by rebel fighters in northern Burkina Faso in January 2016 near the border with Mali and Niger, where they had operated a 120-bed medical clinic for more than 40 years.
Jocelyn Elliott was freed after three weeks.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said it had kidnapped the couple and released the woman unconditionally because of public pressure and guidance from leaders not to involve women in war.
Wong said the Elliott family had asked for privacy, “and we ask that the media respect their wishes at this time”.
The doctor’s family issued a statement through the foreign ministry thanking all those who had “continued to pray for us”.
“We express our relief that Dr Elliott is free and thank the Australian government and all who have been involved over time to secure his release,” the family said.
“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.”
I am very pleased to advise that Dr Kenneth Elliott has been released after more than seven years in captivity in West Africa.
Dr Elliott is safe and well and has been reunited with his wife Jocelyn and their children.
Thank you to Australian officials who secured his release.
— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) May 19, 2023