Freed Australian hostage returns to Burkina Faso

Jocelyn Elliott (centre) arrives on a plane from Niger to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on Feb 8, 2016.
Jocelyn Elliott (centre) arrives on a plane from Niger to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on Feb 8, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

OUAGADOUGOU (AFP) - An elderly Australian woman kidnapped by Al-Qaeda-linked militants in Burkina Faso arrived in Ouagadougou Monday (Feb 8) after being freed following mediation by neighbouring Niger, which is now trying to secure her husband's release.

Jocelyn Elliott, 84, arrived in the Burkina capital aboard a Niger presidential plane at 0720 GMT accompanied by Niger's foreign minister, Aichatou Kane Boualama, to a welcome by Burkinabe Foreign Minister Alpha Barry.

She made no comment on arriving.

Elliott and her husband, doctor Ken Elliott, 82, from Perth in Western Australia, were abducted in Burkina Faso close to the Niger border on the night of Jan 15-16.

She appeared on Niger television alongside President Mahamadou Issoufou on Sunday (Feb 7) evening, thanking the authorities for their efforts to free her and her husband.

Issoufou confirmed that Niger had mediated but did not give details on either the circumstances or the location of her release.

He paid tribute to the Elliotts for providing medical services to local people in Burkina, where they have run a clinic in the dusty town of Djibo, close to the border with Mali, since 1972.

"I think those who abducted them should know the contribution this couple have made to the poorest people in our regions. I hope they will be back together soon and that Jocelyn's husband will soon go free," Issoufou said.

Barry said on Sunday (Feb 7) that the focus was now on securing the release of Ken Elliott.

"For now we know that her husband is alive and well. Now further negotiations will begin for his release and we will do everything to secure it," said Barry, adding that "no ransom was paid or conditions imposed" by the kidnappers for the release of Jocelyn Elliott.

The Burkina government had said the pair were kidnapped in Baraboule, near the country's borders with both Niger and Mali.

Their abduction coincided with a militant assault on an upmarket hotel in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou that left at least 30 people dead, including many foreigners.

Malian militant group Ansar Dine said the couple had been taken by terrorists from the "Emirate of the Sahara" - said by experts to be a branch of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.