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Thursday, June 16, 2005

RESCUED, NOT RELEASED

The complete story is yet to be told, but various details of Douglas Wood’s rescue continue to emerge:

Mr Wood was rescued by Iraqi soldiers after they were tipped off by what is known as a “walk-in”.

That means a civilian simply walked in off the street to an Iraqi military checkpoint and said: “Have I got a story for you."

He then told them about hostages being held in a house in the western Baghdad suburb of Ghazaliya - one of the city’s most dangerous areas.

Meanwhile, the Sheikh’s claims are looking shaky:

Islamic leaders have accused Muslim cleric Taj al-Din al-Hilaly’s spokesman of inflating the mufti’s role in securing the freedom of hostage Douglas Wood.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has spent thousands of dollars funding Sheik Hilaly’s trip to Iraq, where he worked closely with local religious and community leaders to try to negotiate the Australian engineer’s release.

AFIC leaders are angry at Sheik Hilaly’s Sydney-based spokesman Keysar Trad claims that the sheik had advanced knowledge of Mr Wood’s “release” and that he had been dropped off by agreement at a safe house rather than rescued in a random military raid …

Other leaders from AFIC, an umbrella body for Muslim community groups, were seething over Mr Trad’s comments. AFIC, which has kept a low profile since the kidnapping, paid for the sheik to fly business-class to Iraq and will pick up his phone and hotel tab, and that of a Sydney-based Iraqi who travelled with him.

And The Age reports that Australia planned an armed bid to liberate Wood, whose circumstances in captivity were terrifying: 

Following Mr Wood’s rescue in a raid by Iraqi and American troops in Baghdad on Wednesday, The Age has been told that Mr Wood was held for most of the time in dank and desperate conditions with a larger group of hostages. They were mostly Iraqis, but there may have been some other foreign workers.

Although a full debriefing will await Mr Wood’s recovery and medical tests, it is believed he was aware of at least two of his fellow hostages being executed.

Meanwhile, high-level sources have told The Age that the head of Australia’s emergency response team in Baghdad, senior diplomat Nick Warner, was given the formal go-ahead on May 8 - a week after Mr Wood was taken hostage - to make plans for military operations to rescue the American-based contractor.

The decision followed a 2.30am phone call from Mr Warner to the Adelaide home of Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, only 48 hours before the expiry of the first ultimatum issued by Mr Wood’s captors, in which they demanded the full and immediate withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq.

Mr Downer held urgent consultations with Prime Minister John Howard and Defence Minister Robert Hill before authorising the use of military force.

Posted by Tim B. on 06/16/2005 at 10:47 PM
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