Ouagadougou: Burkina Faso’s head of state vowed today to do everything in his power to secure the release of an elderly Australian doctor and his wife, kidnapped by Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists.
Dr. Ken Elliot and his wife Jocelyn, a couple from Perth aged 82 and 84 respectively, were abducted on the night of January 15-16.
They have devoted some 40 years to running the only medical facility in a remote Burkinabe town.
“I would like to reassure their families, their loved ones and the Australian government that everything is being done to find them, in concertation with our friends and neighbours Mali and Niger and our friends abroad,” President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said.
He was speaking at a national commemoration in the capital Ouagadougou, attended by several thousand people, for the victims of jihadist attacks on January 15 that left 30 dead.
The West Australian doctor and his wife run a clinic in the dusty town of Djibo, close to the border with Mali. They moved to the impoverished Sahel country in 1972.
The Burkina government has said the pair were kidnapped in Baraboule, near the west African country’s borders with Niger and Mali.
The kidnapping coincided with a jihadist assault on an upmarket hotel in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou that left at least 30 people dead, including many foreigners.
The abduction has caused an outpouring of support, with the people of Djibo turning to Facebook to plead for the couple’s release.
Hundreds of students in khaki uniforms with hand-printed cardboard placards reading “Free Elliot” turned out in the town with their teachers.
A spokesman for Malian militant group Ansar Dine, Hamadou Ag Khallini, told AFP on January 16 that the couple were being held by jihadists from the Al-Qaeda-linked “Emirate of the Sahara”.
In a brief message, he said they were alive and more details would be released soon.
The Emirate of the Sahara is a branch of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operating in northern Mali, according to experts. The group has claimed the attack on the Ouagadougou hotel.