- Kidnapped Australian Jocelyn Elliott to be released
- Australian surgeon and wife kidnapped in Burkina Faso
- Kidnapped couple caught in global struggle
- The Elliotts built a surgery for 2 million people
Australian woman Jocelyn Elliott has been freed, more than three weeks after she and her surgeon husband Ken were kidnapped in Burkina Faso by al-Qaeda militants.
Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou presented Mrs Elliott to journalists at a news conference in Dosso, in southwestern Niger, and said authorities were intensifying efforts to secure Dr Elliott's release.
The couple, who have worked in Burkina Faso for more than 40 years, have three children. On Sunday the Elliotts' family released a statement saying they were "deeply grateful for the safe release of our mother Jocelyn".
"For over four decades she has served the Burkinabe people together with our father Dr Ken Elliott," the family said. "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.
"We are trusting that the moral and guiding principles of those who have released our mother will also be applied to our elderly father who has served the community of Djibo and the Sahel for more than half his lifetime.
"We respectfully request that they be allowed to continue their work together, providing essential surgical services."
The statement also conveyed the family's "great appreciation to authorities in Niger and Burkina Faso for their support and assistance" in facilitating Mrs Elliott's release.
The Elliotts were abducted on January 15 following attacks in the capital of Ouagadougou that killed 28 people.
The Western Australian couple, aged in their 80s, moved to Burkina Faso in 1972 to set up a medical clinic in the town of Djibo in the country's north.
Dr Elliott was the sole surgeon at the Centre Medico-Chirurgicale de Djibo, the only hospital in the town, and performed up to 150 surgeries a month.
On Saturday the militant group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) issued an audio statement claiming responsibility for the kidnapping, saying it had decided to release the woman unconditionally.
"The primary motive behind their kidnapping was an attempt to [gain] release of our captives who sit behind bars and suffer the pain of imprisonment, as well as being deprived of their basic rights," the recording stated.
In the recording, AQIM said it was releasing the woman under public pressure and in accordance with what it said was guidance from al-Qaeda leaders not to involve women in war.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had spoken to Mrs Elliott and to the couple's family in Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the ABC on Sunday.
He thanked the governments of Burkina Faso and Niger for their efforts and cooperation, but declined to comment on the prospects for Dr Elliott's release, saying it was "a difficult diplomatic situation".
"The Burkina Faso government is working very well on it and we'll continue to stay in touch with them," he said.
- with AAP