19 May 2023

Doctor, 88, freed after being held for more than seven years in West Africa

19 May 2023

An 88-year-old Australian doctor has been released after being held captive by Islamic extremists for more than seven years in West Africa.

Australian foreign minister Penny Wong said Ken Elliott was safe and well after being reunited with his wife and their children on Thursday.

She said: “I’m very pleased to advise that Dr Ken Elliott, who’s been held hostage in Western Africa for some seven years, has been reunited in Australia with his family.”

The foreign minister said no ransom was paid to secure Dr Elliott’s freedom, but no other details on his release were disclosed.

“The Australian government has a clear policy that we do not pay ransoms,” she 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

“What we have done over the last seven years is ensure that we worked with other governments and local authorities in relation to Dr Elliott.”

Mr Elliott and his wife ran a medical clinic in Burkina Faso for four decades before they were kidnapped near the northern Burkina Faso town of Djibo, close to the border with Mali and Niger, in January 2016.

Jocelyn Elliott was released three weeks later in neighbouring Niger whose then-president Mahamadou Issoufou worked with Burkina Faso intelligence services to secure her release, his office said at the time.

A family statement said: “We wish to express our thanks to God and all who have 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.

“At 88 years of age, and after many years away from home, Dr Elliott now needs time and privacy to rest and rebuild strength.”

The militant group behind the kidnapping, al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, rose to prominence in large part through kidnap-for-ransom operations targeting foreign aid workers and tourists.

On the day they were kidnapped, 30 people were killed in an extremist attack in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou.

Al Qaida’s North Africa wing claimed responsibility for that attack and other high-profile strikes in West Africa months earlier, including killing 20 people in an attack on a hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako.

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