Kidnapped Australian freed, husband still captive in Burkina Faso

Kidnapped Australian freed, husband still captive in Burkina Faso

An Australian woman kidnapped three weeks ago by al-Qaida terrorists in West Africa is tonight free.

But Jocelyn Elliott's surgeon husband is still a captive.

The couple has lived and operated a medical clinic in Burkina Faso for more than 40 years.

After being held captive for three weeks, Ms Elliott still manages a smile; she's exhausted but safe.

In French, she thanked Niger's president following her release to authorities. But her husband is still a prisoner, in the hands of an al-Qaida-linked group.

The Elliotts were kidnapped from their Burkina Faso home on January 15. It's likely they were taken to a desert camp in neighbouring Mali.

They have run a clinic in West Africa for decades, Dr Ken Elliot performing dozens of surgeries a week.

"The need is enormous, and I think if you could look after it the rewards are enormous," he said.

Also enormous was the local reaction to their kidnapping -- in Burkina Faso, there were mass rallies and a social media campaign demanding the well-regarded Australians be set free.

The message clearly got through to the kidnappers. It's understood there was no ransom and no prisoner exchange.

"Now we've seen the social media used against al-Qaida very effectively," says foreign affairs expert Dr Keith Suter. "We don't know what they've got planned for Dr Elliott but the fact that the wife was released looking so well [and] unharmed is a good omen for the eventual release of Dr Elliott."

In a statement, the Elliotts' children said they were deeply grateful for the safe release of their mum and hoped their dad would be freed soon.

They said they wanted their parents to continue to provide their surgical services.