An Australian Christian missionary who was kidnapped by an al-Qaeda affiliate in the African nation of Burkina Faso last month has been released. Her husband, however, remains detained.
Jocelyn Elliott and Dr. Ken Elliott were kidnapped in mid-January by militants associated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb in the town of Djibo, which is near the Mali border.
The Christian couple, who are both in their 80s, have lived in the Djibo since the 1970s and operate a 120-bed medical clinic in the town where Dr. Elliott is the only surgeon. The Elliotts' clinic is the only one located within hundreds of miles of the location.
The couple was kidnapped on the same day that the al-Qaeda-linked group attacked the Burkina Faso capital of Ouagadougou and killed at least 27 people, including other missionaries.
In an audio recording released Friday, the Islamic extremist group explained that it was going to release Elliot as to "not make women involved in the war."
"It is our religious duty to respect the civilians, based on the [Islamic] prophet's hadith on not harming women, the elderly and the children, and based on the guidance by our commanders," the statement asserts.
Niger and Burkina Faso authorities are still working to secure Dr. Elliott's release.
The militant group said in the audio message that it kidnapped the Christian couple in hopes of being able to work out an agreement for the release of some of its fighters.
"The primary motive behind their kidnapping was to [gain] the release of our captives who sit behind bars and suffer the pain of imprisonment, as well as being deprived of their basic rights," they explained.
Elliott was released in Burkina Faso's neighboring country Niger over the weekend and returned to Burkina Faso on Monday, when she arrived at the airport in Ouagadougou.
According to a post on Dr. Elliott's Facebook page Monday, Jocelyn Elliott said she is looking forward to sleeping "in a lovely bed."
"I am very moved to be here with my Burkina family. I want to thank the people of Burkina for their support in my absence," Elliott said in French. "I want to be with my husband shortly so that we can go to Djibo and continue there."
Elliott's children issued a statement thanking the Niger and Burkina Faso authorities for their assistance in freeing their mother and continued effort to free their father.
"The Elliott family are deeply grateful for the safe release of our mother Jocelyn," the statement from the family reads. "We wish to convey our great appreciation to the authorities in #Niger and #Burkina Faso for their support and assistance."
"For over four decades she has served the Burkinabe people together with our father Dr. Ken Elliott," the statement continued. "They are separated now but united in their desire to bring healing and hope to the people of Northern Burkina Faso and the surrounding regions."
The family remains hopeful that the militants will eventually release their father, as they did their mother.
"We are trusting that the moral and guiding principles of those who have released our mother will be applied to our elderly father who has served the community of Djibo and the Sahei for more than half his lifetime," the family stated. "We respectfully request that they be allowed to continue their work together in providing essential surgical services."