The Australian government has reported that an 88-year-old Australian doctor who had been kept captive in West Africa for more than seven years has been freed and safely returned to his family.
Kenneth Elliott, a resident of Perth on Australia’s west coast, has been reunited with his wife Jocelyn and their children and is safe and well, according to a statement from Penny Wong, the country’s foreign minister, on Friday.
Elliott and his wife, Jocelyn Elliott, were abducted by rebel gunmen near the borders with Mali and Niger in northern Burkina Faso, where they had run a 120-bed medical clinic for more than 40 years, in January 2016. However, after three weeks, Jocelyn was allowed to go. According to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the woman was released due to pressure from the public and directives from commanders not to employ women in combat.
“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.
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.”