Australian doctor freed by al Qaeda after 7 years in captivity

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian doctor held captive by al Qaeda-linked extremists for more than seven years in West Africa has been released, the Australian government said on Friday.

Dr Kenneth Elliott, 88, is safe and well, and had been reunited with his wife, Jocelyn, and their children, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said.

The couple were seized in January 2016 from Djibo, near Burkina Faso's border with Mali, where they have operated a 120-bed clinic for more than 40 years.

Jocelyn Elliott was freed after three weeks. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb then said it had kidnapped the couple and would release the woman unconditionally because of public pressure and guidance from leaders not to involve women in war.

"At 88 years of age, and after many years away from home, Dr Elliott now needs time and privacy to rest and rebuild strength. We thank you for your understanding and sympathy," his family said in a statement.

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Gerry Doyle)