Militants Free Doctor, 88, After More Than 7 Years

Australian doctor was kidnapped in Burkina Faso in early 2016
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2023 7:06 AM CDT

An Australian doctor has been reunited with his family more than seven years after he was kidnapped by an al-Qaeda offshoot in West Africa. Kenneth Elliott, 88, flew into Perth on Thursday and was reunited with wife Jocelyn and their children, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports. Jocelyn Elliott was also kidnapped in Burkina Faso in January 2016 but she was freed after around seven weeks. Authorities say no ransom was paid for the release of Elliott, who ran a clinic in northern Burkina Faso with his wife for more than 40 years.

"The Australian government has a clear policy that we do not pay ransoms," Foreign Minister Penny Wong said per the AP. "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." Family members thanked the government and all those who helped 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," they said in a statement.

The group that seized the doctor and his wife, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, rose in prominence partly through its kidnapping of foreign tourists and aid workers, the AP notes. For many years, Elliott was the only surgeon in Djibo, a town near Burkina Faso's borders with Mali and Niger. After he was abducted, residents campaigned for his release, describing the doctor as the "best of humanity" and marching with "Free Elliott" signs. (More al-Qaeda stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.