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Doctor, wife reportedly abducted last month

Australian couple have worked in local clinic in Burkina Faso

(CNN) —  

An al Qaeda linked militant group claims it is holding an Australian doctor and his wife who were abducted last month in Burkina Faso.

Al-Mourabitoun, in a purported audio message, said it plans to release the wife because it does “not target women in times of war.”

CNN on Friday could not independently verify the claim.

The couple was working in a local clinic in the northern town of Djibo, near the border with Mali, according to Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kabore. He identified them as Dr. Ken Elliott and his wife, Jocelyn.

A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was aware of the message.

“We are in close contact with the family in what is a very difficult time. The safety and welfare of Dr. and Mrs. Elliott are our overriding concern,” the spokesperson said. “The family has requested privacy and the government will not be providing further comment at this time.”

The Burkinabe President mentioned the kidnapping during a January 16 national televised speech that mostly addressed a terror attack that unfolded in the capital Ouagadougou earlier that day.

The President said he ordered security forces to launch efforts to find the pair. Al-Mourabitoun also claimed responsibility for the Ouagadougou attack, which killed 29 people and targeted a luxury hotel as well as two other locations.

Al-Mourabitoun, which has ties to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghbreb, had said it was behind the November attack at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali, which left 22 people dead.