Canberra – The family of an Australian doctor and his wife abducted in Burkina Faso urged the kidnappers on Tuesday to release the couple so that they can continue their life-saving charity work in the West African country.
Surgeon Ken Elliott and his wife Jocelyn, in their 80s, disappeared from their home on Friday near the northern town of Djibo where they have run a medical centre for four decades.
A statement on behalf of their daughter and two sons issued by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the children had been heartened by an outpouring of support from the Burkinabe people "who clearly consider Ken and Jocelyn to be one of their own after all these years of providing surgical services to the region."
It said the couple's children "are understandably deeply dismayed by this incident and sincerely hope that their parents are being treated kindly wherever they are."
The statement called on the couple to be released "so that they may continue to assist those who are in need of their services."
The couple are thought to have been abducted by jihadis who may have taken them across the border to Mali. Authorities do not know if the abductions are linked to the attack on the country's capital Ouagadougou by al-Qaeda -linked fighters on Friday night that left up to 32 people dead.
Following news of the abduction at the weekend, Australia warned travellers of "the serious threat of kidnapping in Burkina Faso, particularly in the north."
The Australian government, which has a policy of refusing to pay ransoms to kidnappers, was dealing with Burkina Faso authorities through Australian diplomats in Ghana.
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.
A Facebook page supporting the couple since their abduction has attracted numerous comments of support from around the world.
"I am hopeful that they will come back to us healthy," said one post.