The Australian government said on Friday (May 19) that an 88-year-old Australian surgeon, Kenneth Elliott, has been freed by terrorist group Al Quaeda-linked jihadists. Elliott and his wife were captured by the jihadists in Burkina Faso in Africa in January 2016. His wife was released three weeks later. The doctor however, was held in captivity for seven years.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said that the doctor returned to Australia on Thursday night.
“Dr Elliott is safe and well and has been reunited with his wife Jocelyn and their children,” Wong said.
“I am so pleased that his release has been secured and he is safely again with his family.”
Family of Dr Kenneth Elliott said that they were relieved at his release. They said that they prayed for others who were still being held.
“We wish to express our thanks to God and all who have continued to pray for us,” the family said in a statement.
“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.”
Before they were captured, Dr Elliott and his wife, both from Perth in Western Australia, had run their sole medical clinic in Djibo town in northern Burkina Faso near the Mali border. The couple ran the clinic since 1972. They had also carried out humanitarian work in Mali and Niger.
They were abducted close to Niger border in the intervening night of January 15 and 16, 2016.
At the time, Malian militant group Ansar Dine said that Dr Elliott and his wife were taken by jihadists from the “Emirare of the Sahara”. Experts suspect that it is a branch of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Dr Elliott’s wife was freed after mediation from Niger.