7 Feb 2016

Al Qaeda frees elderly Australian woman

5:29 pm on 7 February 2016

An elderly Australian woman kidnapped with her husband last month in Burkina Faso by a group affiliated to al Qaeda has been freed.

Ken Elliott and wife Jocelyn were kidnapped in Burkina Faso.

Ken Elliot is still being held hostage by Al Qaeda in Burkina Faso. Photo: Facebook

Jocelyn Elliott spoke to journalists at a news conference in Dosso, south-western Niger.

The president of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, said the authorities were trying to secure the release of her husband.

The circumstances of her release and how she arrived in Niger were not clear.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic region of Magreb claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in an audio statement on Saturday.

The statement said the group had decided to free Ms Elliot "unconditionally" due to public pressure and guidance from Al Qaeda leaders to not involve women in war.

"The primary motive behind their kidnapping was an attempt to [gain] release of our captives who sit behind bars and suffer the pain of imprisonment, as well as being deprived of their basic rights," the recording stated.

Australia's prime minister Malcolm Turnbull would not comment on the release of Ms Elliott's husband, only saying Canberra would continue to stay in touch with Burkina Faso.

The Elliott family thanked the authorities for their help, saying in a statement they were "deeply grateful" for the safe release of their mother.

"We are trusting that the moral and guiding principles of those who have released our mother will also be applied to our elderly father who has served the community of Djibo and the Sahel for more than half his lifetime," the statement said.

For over 40 years, Dr Ken Elliott and his wife have operated a 120-bed clinic in the town of Djibo near Burkina Faso's border with Mali.

The couple, who are in their 80s, were originally from Perth but had lived in Djibo since 1972.

They were abducted on 15 January, the same day Al Qaeda fighters raided a restaurant and hotel in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, and killed 30 people, many of them foreigners.

Burkina Faso troops on patrol in Ouagadougo.

Burkina Faso troops on patrol in Ouagadougo. Photo: AFP

- ABC, Reuters

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