OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — An Australian woman who was freed by her al-Qaida captors after several weeks said Monday that she hopes her husband who remains a hostage will soon be released as well so they can continue their charity work in the West African country.
Jocelyn Elliott, 76, had been released over the weekend in neighboring Niger after the jihadists said they did not want "to make women involved in the war." Niger's president had worked with intelligence services in Burkina Faso to secure her release, officials said.
She arrived Monday in the capital of Burkina Faso, clutching the arm of another woman as walked down the steps off the plane in a traditional gown in vivid shades of red, green, blue and yellow.
The couple operates a medical clinic in a remote corner of the country's north where they have worked for half their lives.
"I would like to thank the Burkinabe people for their support during my absence," she told journalists in Ouagadougou. "I would like to reunite with my husband soon so that we can return to Djibo and continue the work that we do there."
The Elliott family has called on the jihadists to show mercy to Dr. Kenneth Elliott, who is 81 and has provided medical care for decades to impoverished Burkinabes.
"We are trusting that the moral and guiding principles of those who have released our mother will also be applied to our elderly father who has served the community of Djibo and the Sahel for more than half his lifetime," the Elliott family said in a statement carried by Australian media Sunday.
The militant group behind the kidnapping, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, rose to prominence in large part through kidnap-for-ransom operations targeting foreign aid workers and tourists.
In recent months, the group has grabbed headlines with claims of responsibility for high-profile strikes in West Africa, killing 20 people in an attack on a hotel in Mali's capital in November and 30 people in an attack in Burkina Faso's capital the same day the Elliotts were kidnapped.
Associated Press writer Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report.
This version corrects Jocelyn Elliott's age to 76.