Aussie hostage freed after 7 years

Dr Kenneth Elliott
Kenneth Elliott has been freed after seven years. Picture: Supplied

An esteemed Australian doctor held hostage in Western Africa for seven years has been freed, the Australian government has confirmed.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said Kenneth Elliott was “safe and well” and had been reunited with his wife and children.

Dr Elliott, now 88, was taken hostage by al-Qai’da-linked jihadists in Burkina Faso in January, 2016, alongside his wife Jocelyn, who was quickly released.

Dr Kenneth Elliott
Kenneth Elliott has been released after seven years as a hostage. Picture: Supplied

In a statement on Friday, Dr Elliott’s family said they wished 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,” his family said.

“We continue to pray for those still held and wish them freedom and safe return to their loved ones.”

Dr and Mrs Elliott had run a 120-bed clinic near the border with Mali and Niger for more than 40 years at the time they were kidnapped.

They began their hospital work in the town of Djibo, in northern Burkina Faso, in 1972, with Dr Elliott the sole surgeon.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong confirmed on Friday that Dr Elliott had been freed. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

A family spokesperson at the time of the kidnapping – which had been claimed by Islamist group Ansar Din – said the couple had “dedicated their lives to providing medical relief” to people in the remote area.

“Their commitment to the local people is reflected in the fact that they have continued there with only a few holidays since 1972. They are held in high esteem by the local people,” the spokesperson said at the time.

Djibo residents launched an internet petition at the time demanding Dr Elliott be freed.

The kidnapping was at the time described as “a new low” in terrorism.

On Friday, Senator Wong said the government and the Elliott family had worked “tirelessly” for the doctor’s release.

She thanked the Australian officials who had worked to secure his release and support the family.

“We acknowledge the strength and resilience Dr Elliott and members of his family have shown through the most difficult of circumstances,” she said in a statement.