Missionary doctor freed after 7 years captivity by al-Qaeda


(Bamako) The news of the release of Arthur Kenneth Elliott, the Australian doctor kidnapped in Burkina Faso seven years ago, arrived a few hours ago. It was exactly on January 15, 2016 when Dr. Elliot, now 88, was abducted with his wife Jocelyn. The couple were abducted in Djibo, on Burkina Faso’s border with Mali, where they had been running a 120-bed clinic for more than 40 years. Jocelyn Elliott was released after three weeks. “Elliot is safe and sound and back in Perth with his wife and children”, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said.

“We want to thank God and everyone who continued to pray for us,” Elliott’s family said in a statement released by the ministry. “We express our relief at his release and thank the Australian Government and all those who have helped secure his release. At 88, and after many years away from his country, Arthur now needs time and privacy to rest and regain strength. We thank you for your understanding and closeness”.

Immense joy was expressed by Father Pier Luigi Maccalli, priest of the Society of African Missions, also a victim of kidnappings in the Sahel area for more than two years (see Fides, 9/10/2020). “I learned with relief and immense joy the news of the release of Dr. Elliot who was finally able to be reunited with his loved ones. We live tragic events like the floods in Emilia-Romagna these days, adds the missionary , I feel involved as a victim and I share the pain of those who are overwhelmed by an unexpected event. On the other hand, the news of the release of a hostage brings me deep joy and makes me relive the joy of the embrace of the return to freedom”.

“At the same time, continues Father Pier Luigi, I share a feeling of sympathy for all the other hostages of whom we have no news. I am thinking of Iulian Ghergut, kidnapped in Burkina Faso on April 4, 2015 and of whom we still have no news (see Fides, 6/5/2023). Today it is also exactly one year since the Italian Langone family was kidnapped in Mali on May 19, 2022. Giovanni, had his own business in Mali for several years and his parents had joined him after retiring in Italy”.

The Elliots’ kidnapping was carried out by the militant group Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which became known primarily for its kidnapping of foreign aid workers and tourists for ransom. On the day the Australian couple were kidnapped in 2016, thirty people were killed in an extremist attack in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. The North African branch of Al-Qaeda had claimed responsibility for this attack and other attacks in West Africa a few months earlier, including the death of 20 people during an attack against a hotel in Bamako, the capital of Mali.