Australian doctor freed 7 years after abduction in West Africa

Kenneth Elliott was taken captive in northern Burkina Faso in 2016 along with his wife, who was released shortly after their abduction.

A soldier stands guard outside a building where a meeting between the military and opposition was taking place in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, November 2, 2014. Burkina Faso's army cleared thousands of protesters from the capital and fired warning shots at state TV headquarters on Sunday as it sought to tighten its grip on power following the resignation of President Blaise Compaore two days ago. REUTERS/Joe Penney (BURKINA FASO - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY)
A soldier stands guard in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso. Australian doctor Kenneth Elliott has been released following years in captivity after his abduction in the north of the country in 2016 [File: Joe Penney/Reuters]

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.

“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.

Australian Jocelyn Elliott, center, who was freed by al-Qaida captors, walks after getting off an airplane at the airport in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. The Australian woman who was freed by her al-Qaida captors after several weeks landed in Burkina Faso's capital early Monday, as family members urged the militants to grant similar mercy to her husband who remained a hostage. (AP Photo/Theo Renaut)
Australian Jocelyn Elliott, centre, at the airport in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in February 2016 after being released by her captors [File: Theo Renaut/AP]

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.”


Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies