Burkina Faso kidnapping: Australian woman released
UPDATE: AUSTRALIAN woman Jocelyn Elliott has been freed after she and her husband were kidnapped by al-Qaeda militants last month in Burkina Faso.
Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou announced Mrs Elliott's release at a media conference in Dosso, in south-western Niger, on Sunday.
He said negotiations were ongoing to secure her husband's release.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had been speaking with the couple's family in Australia.
Mr Turnbull thanked the Burkina Faso and Niger governments for their efforts and co-operation but declined to comment on the prospects for Dr Ken Elliott's release.
The Elliotts were abducted on January 15.
The couple moved to Burkina Faso to set up a medical clinic more than 40 years ago.
The Elliott family thanked authorities for their assistance.
UPDATE: A WEST African hostage crisis that has been acutely felt on the Sunshine Coast may soon be partly resolved.
The Department of Foreign Affairs says it is aware of a video from al-Qaeda that says the militant group will release an Australian woman kidnapped in Burkina Faso on January 15.
Australians Dr Ken Elliott and his wife, Jocelyn, aged in their 80s, were kidnapped from the town of Baraboule, near the border of Mali, during what was believed to be a series of planned assaults. In one of those attacks, on the Cappuccino Cafe in the Burkina Faso capital of Ouagadougou, 28 people were killed.
Maroochydore resident Victor Bado, who moved from Burkina Faso to Australia about nine years ago, knew the Elliotts, and his brother Seydou worked closely with them in his family's drilling company, which focused on water bore holes.
Last month, Mr Bado told the Daily many people in his homeland held the two Australians in high regard, particularly in the town of Djibo, where the Elliotts had been practising medicine since 1972 and setting up a small hospital for some of the country's poorest people.
"The country has basically been shaken by what has happened," Mr Bado said of the kidnapping.
"You rarely get someone, a Westerner, who comes into the country and actually helps the people."
Now, there is some relief to his anxiety. Yesterday, al-Qaeda released a statement on its Telegram Channel saying the group had decided to release one of the captives, a woman, unconditionally.
Its recorded message stated: "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."
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said: "The government is aware of a video being released in which a spokesperson claiming to represent al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb states that they currently hold two Australians hostage.
"We are in close contact with the family in what is a very difficult time.
"The safety and welfare of Dr and Mrs Elliott are our overriding concern."
It was not known last night what the likely immediate fate of Dr Elliott was, nor specific details of when or how Mrs Elliott would be released.
EARLIER: A FORMER Sunshine Coast woman, Jocelyn Elliot, kidnapped by Al Qaeda in the Islamic region of Magreb (AQIM) may be set for unconditional release, MSN reports.
Her husband, Dr Ken Elliot, is expected to remain in captivity.
AQIM released a statement through their official Telegram channel, announcing the release.
"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 telegram said.
The couple had run a 120-bed clinic in Djibo, a town in Burkina Faso, for more than 40 years.
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said the Government was "aware" of the situation.
"We are in close contact with the family in what is a very difficult time, the safety and welfare of Dr and Mrs Elliott are our overriding concern," they said.
"The family has requested privacy and the Government will not be providing further comment at this time."