Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso | AFP |
An Australian surgeon kidnapped by jihadists nearly two years ago whose whereabouts remain unknown has been declared a citizen of the west African nation, an official decree announced Wednesday.
“Arthur Kenneth Elliott, born 11 November 1934 in Perth, in Australia…. a surgeon” has been naturalised Burkinabe, according to the decree with a list of 84 people who obtained the nationality.
Elliott along with his wife Jocelyn, 76, an Australian humanitarian worker, were abducted in January 2015 by Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists from Djibo, a dusty town near the border with Mali and Niger. The couple had run the sole medical clinic there since 1972.
Jocelyn Elliott was released by her captors in February thanks to negotiations by Niger’s government, but her husband has not been seen and is believed to be being held outside Burkina.
The kidnapping of the Australian couple was claimed by the Islamist group Ansar Dine, a Malian mainly Tuareg group.
Their abduction coincided with a jihadist assault on an upmarket hotel in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou that left at least 30 people dead, including many foreigners.
The kidnapping prompted an outpouring of support, with the people of Djibo who turned to Facebook to plead for the couple’s release and hundreds of students with placards reading “Free Elliott” taking to the streets of the town with their teachers.
Jocelyn Elliott has refused to leave Burkina Faso vowing to wait for her husband’s return to continue their medical work.
The Djibo residents have launched a petition on the internet demanding that Dr Elliott be freed.