An Australian doctor who was kept captive by al-Qaeda in West Africa for more than seven years has been freed.
Dr. Kenneth Elliott has been reunited with his family and is safe and sound, according to Australia’s foreign minister.
For more than 40 years, he and his wife ran a clinic between Mali and Burkina Faso. In 2016, extremists took it over.
Following intelligence efforts to obtain her release, Jocelyn Elliott was freed three weeks later.
His family said in a statement: ‘We wish 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.
‘At 88 years of age, and after many years away from home, Dr Elliott now needs time and privacy to rest and rebuild strength.’
Australian foreign minister Penny Wong acknowledged the resilience shown by Dr Elliott’s family.
She added: ‘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.
‘The Australian government has a clear policy that we do not pay ransoms.’
Al-Qaeda rose in prominence in large part due to its kidnap-for-ransom operations targeting foreign aid workers and tourists.
It formed during Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s and operates across the Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert and within Mali and Burkina Faso.
In Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, 30 people were killed in an extremist attack on the same day the couple were kidnapped.
The north wing of the group claimed responsibility for that attack and other high-profile strikes in West Africa months earlier.
These included killing 20 people in an attack on a hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako.
France sent 5,000 troops to Mali to fight the group and its allies, and in 2020 killed its leader Abdelmalek Droukdel.
But last year France pulled out from its military operations amid growing unpopularity about the war in its own country.