Grave concerns are being held for an Australian husband and wife medical team believed to have been abducted by Al Qaeda in Burkina Faso over the weekend.
Perth couple Ken and Jocelyn Elliott, who are both in their 80s, were abducted on Friday night in the land locked west African nation. It is feared they are now in the hands of Al Qaeda-linked jihadists.
A family spokesman said on Monday the pair began their hospital work in northern Burkina Faso in 1972, and have seldom taken holidays.
The Elliotts operate a surgical clinic with around 120 beds where Ken is the sole surgeon, supported by a small number of dedicated local staff, the spokesman said.
It has been reported Dr Elliott performs nealry 150 surgeries a month.
"They have dedicated their lives to providing medical relief to people in the remote northern area of Burkina Faso," the spokesman said.
Dr Ken Elliott and his wife Jocelyn 'are held in high esteem by the local people,' a family spokesman said
It is understood no reason has yet been given for the abduction, and their whereabouts are still unknown.
Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss has said the Australian government is working with local authorities through the High Commission in Accra, Ghana, while the safety of the pair is the highest priority.
A Facebook group called 'Djibo soutient Dr. Ken Elliot' has been set up in support of the pair.
Al Qaeda militants last week seized the Splendid Hotel in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou, opened fire on a restaurant and attacked another hotel nearby, killing at least 28 people from at least seven countries, and wounding 50 more.
The assault, claimed by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), follows a similar raid in November on a luxury hotel in Mali's capital, Bamako, which killed 20 people, including citizens of Russia, China and the United States.
President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said his country was in shock.
"For the first time in its history, our country has fallen victim to a series of barbaric terrorist attacks," he said of the hotel attack, adding that the people of Burkina Faso would "emerge victorious".