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Abducted Australians ‘dedicated life’ to Burkina villagers

Ahmed Ouoba, AFP | Archival picture shows Burkinabe soldiers in the north-east region of Tambao in April 2015

The family of an Australian doctor and his wife kidnapped in Burkina Faso said on Sunday they did not know why the couple were abducted or where they were taken.


Surgeon Ken Elliott and his wife Jocelyn disappeared on Friday night, the family in Western Australia state said in a statement.

"Recent news from the country indicates an alleged abduction of Ken and Jocelyn on Friday night, however no reason is yet given for this and their whereabouts is still unknown," the statement said.

Authorities do not know if the abductions are linked to the attack on the country's capital Ouagadougou by al-Qaida fighters on Friday night that left at least 28 people dead.

Burkina Faso Minister of Security and Internal Affairs Simon Compaore said on Saturday that the couple, reported to be in their 80s, have been kidnapped in the northern town of Djibo where they have run a medical center for four decades.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Sunday its diplomatic post in Ghana was working with local authorities on the investigation.

The family said the couple began their hospital work in Djibo in 1972. They operate a surgical clinic with 120 beds, where Ken Elliott is the sole surgeon and is supported by local staff.

"They have dedicated their lives to providing medical relief to people in the remote northern area of Burkina Faso," the statement said. It added that their commitment to the local people is reflected in the fact that they have continued there with only a few holidays since 1972. "They are held in high esteem by the local people."

Djibo residents take to Facebook

Marisa Wray, a British doctor who stayed with the couple while she was student in 1996, told FRANCE 24 that they were “two of the most wonderful, and the bravest human beings I know.”

Wray added that the couple has a Facebook support page set up by Djibo residents, which had more than 1,200 followers at last count. “Most of the locals are Muslim, and the actions of the kidnappers have only served to enrage the people of Djibo and to cause them to denounce the kidnappers as behaving in a way completely contrary to the teachings of Islam.”

Richard Lugg, who studied medicine with Ken Elliott at the University of Western Australia in the couple's hometown of Perth, described him as a friendly and dedicated man who had given a lifetime of service to the people of Burkina Faso.

"It is tragic that at the end of his career, this should happen to him," Lugg told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Ken Elliott said in an undated Global Business Solutions Inc. video recorded in Djibo that the couple were motivated to build their medical center at Djibo because of the local need.

"Our great thrust is surgery because that is in our opinion lacking throughout the country and throughout the region of West Africa," Elliott said.

"The commonest things we would do I suppose are hernias, bladder stones, we do all sorts of tumors - you name it, we do it because there's nowhere else to do it," he said.

The couple had two sons, a daughter and three grandchildren, Lugg said.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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