Ouagadougou, 19/05/2023 (MAP) – An 88-year-old Australian doctor, Kenneth Elliott, has been released seven years after he was kidnapped by terrorists in Burkina Faso, media reported Friday.
Elliott and his wife had been kidnapped by al-Qaeda-linked terrorists on the night of January 15-16, 2016 near the border with Niger. His wife Jocelyn had been released the following month, following Nigerien mediation.
The surgeon returned to Australia on Thursday evening, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong was quoted by the press as saying, « Dr. Elliott is safe and sound and has been reunited with his wife Jocelyn and their children. »
« I am very pleased that his release has been obtained and that he is safe again with his family, » she added.
The couple’s kidnapping had been claimed by the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Ansar Dine. In July 2017, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqmi) had released a video showing six hostages, including Kenneth Elliott.
Elliott’s family expressed relief. « We wish to thank God and all those who have continued to pray for us, » it said in a statement.
« At 88 years old, and after many years away from home, Dr. Elliott now needs time and privacy to rest and regain his strength. We thank you for your understanding and sympathy, » it noted.
Prior to their abduction, the couple from Perth, Western Australia, had run the only medical clinic in Djibo, a town near the border with Mali, since 1972. They had also conducted humanitarian work in Mali and Niger.
Burkina Faso has been caught since 2015 in a spiral of terrorist violence that began in Mali and Niger a few years earlier and has spread beyond their borders.
The violence has left more than 10,000 civilians and soldiers dead over the past seven years, according to NGOs, and more than two million people internally displaced.