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Australian Hostage Released In Iraq


http://gdb.rferl.org/B7B95631-E171-4245-B687-19FB413E6F35_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/B7B95631-E171-4245-B687-19FB413E6F35_mw800_mh600.jpg Wood's release was announced today in Baghdad Baghdad, 15 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Australian hostage Douglas Wood was freed after six weeks in captivity in Iraq, the head of the Australian Emergency Response Team confirmed to reporters in Baghdad today, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported.

"Let me confirm with great delight that Douglas Wood who was abducted on 30 April in Baghdad was rescued earlier today from a house in the Ghazaliyah area. He's now resting comfortably and at a safe location in Baghdad. He's as well as you could expect him to be, after enduring what has been 47 days in captivity," Nick Warner of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said. Warner has been heading up the ERT's effort in securing Wood's release.

Warner recounted events that took place over the course of Wood's captivity, saying that the Emergency Response Team was on the ground in Baghdad working on Wood's case by 3 May. The team was followed by Australian Mufti Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali on 10 May.

"On 29 May the Emergency Response Team received a proof-of-life video of Mr. Wood. This was the third video that we had received of Mr. Wood. The other two being delivered first I think to Reuters and I think to Al-Jazeera. With the delivery of the video, the kidnappers opened a channel of communication with us, [through] an intermediary, an intermediary we've been working with for quite some time," Warner said. "And in the meantime, Sheikh Hilali opened his own channel for communication."

"I just want to confirm that at no time was any ransom paid by the Australian government nor were there any political or other concessions made by the Australian government to those holding Mr. Wood," Warner added.

"This morning, between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. the 2nd Battalion First Iraqi Armored Brigade supported by coalition soldiers conducted a raid in the Ghazaliyah area of Baghdad. They were operating on intelligence and tips gathered by Colonel Muhammad [not further identified], 2nd Battalion commander. During the raid, Iraqi soldiers subdued two insurgents and rescued Mr. Wood and one Iraqi hostage. Colonel Muhammad quickly turned Mr. Wood over to U.S. and Australian authorities," Warner recounted.

Asked if there were signs that any other prisoners, such as freed French journalist Florence Abuneas or the previously released Romanian hostages had been held there, Warner said: "I don't have those details at the moment but there's really nothing more I can say."

Iraqi General Nasir al-Abadi told Radio Free Iraq that Wood was captured as part of a nighttime operation. Neighbors had reportedly alerted security forces to abnormal activity taking place in the house. When security forces approached the house, the insurgents fired at them and a gunfight ensued. Upon entering the house, security forces found Wood lying on the floor face down and covered. They initially thought he was a dead insurgent, but when they uncovered him, they discovered it was Wood, al-Abadi said.

For the latest news and analysis on Iraq, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The New Iraq".
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