Islamic extremists in Burkina Faso kidnap Australian couple

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A gendarme carries a plastic bag filled with personal items out of the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, January 16, 2016, after security forces retook the hotel from al Qaeda fighters who seized it in an assault that killed two dozen people from at least 18 countries and marked a major escalation of Islamist militancy in West Africa. Reuters/Joe Penney

President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, confirmed the kidnapping of an Australian couple by Islamic extremists on Saturday.

Australian surgeon Ken Elliot and his wife Jocelyn, both in their 80s, were abducted from Baraboule, near the country’s border with Nigeria and Mali. They had lived and worked in Djibo, near Baraboule, since 1972.

According to the government of Burkina, a spokesperson for Malian Islamist group Ansar Dine claimed that the couple is now being held by an Al-Qaeda linked extremist group “Emirate of the Sahara.” The spokesperson added that they are still alive and more details will be released soon.

The family of the couple, who originally hailed from Perth, confirmed in a statement that there was no knowledge of the couple’s whereabouts since Friday night.

"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," said in the statement, as quoted by the The Sydney Morning Herald. "They are held in high esteem by the local people. Their commitment to the local people is reflected in the fact that they have continued there with only a few holidays since 1972."

The abduction of the couple followed a militant attack in the country’s capital city of Ouagadougou on Saturday, which killed at least 29 people.

The ABC reported that, a European diplomatic group claimed that they had received intelligence on Friday about the kidnapping of a Western couple in Burkina Faso. The source added that the kidnapper’s motive was to take the hostages towards Mali.

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson confirmed that Australian diplomats are working with local authorities in Ghana over the suspected kidnapping. The Australian post in Ghana, which is about 1100 km from Baraboule, is Australia’s closes diplomatic mission to Burkina Faso. 

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