Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Coalition forces rescue hostage; French may have paid ransom to have hostage released

Australian Prime Minister John Howard reveals to Parliament that hostage Douglas Wood has been freed in a military operation.

6 weeks after he was captured, Australian (and California resident) Douglas Wood has been rescued from his captors by American and Iraqi forces. The plight of European hostages has received a lot of media attention from their home countries, but the dire stories of Americans in captivity has barely caused a ripple in American media markets.

Australian hostage Douglas Wood was freed in a military operation by Iraqi troops backed by U.S. forces, said officials Wednesday. Iraqi militants in Baghdad have been holding Wood hostage since late April, and threatened to kill him if Australia didn't withdraw its troops from Iraq.

The 64-year-old civil engineer, a resident of California, is now under the protection of Australian troops in Baghdad, announced Australian Prime Minister John Howard. "Mr. Wood was recovered a short while ago in Baghdad in a military operation that I am told was conducted by Iraqi forces in cooperation in a general way with force elements of the United States," Howard told Australia's Parliament on Wednesday.

"I understand that he is well. He's undergoing medical checks at the present time." No details were available on the military operation that led to Wood's release.

Howard said the Australian government refused to give in to demands of the kidnappers, who called themselves the Shura Council of the Mujahedeen of Iraq. A team of diplomats, police and military personnel has been working on Wood's release.

"At no stage has a ransom been paid. At no stage has the government compromised its position in relation to our commitment to Iraq," said Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. He added that he phoned Wood's family, who he described as being "tremendously excited" at hearing the news.

Wood's release comes three days after French journalist Florence Aubenas and her Iraqi translator were released after being held hostage in Iraq for five months.

CTV.ca: Australian held hostage in Iraq rescued

Just a few days ago, French hostage Florence Aubenas was RELEASED by her captors. The French government refused to answer questions about evidence towards paying a RANSOM for her release.

Rumours continue to circulate that the French government paid a de facto ransom for the release of the French journalist Florence Aubenas, held hostage for five months in Iraq.

Her newspaper, Libération, appeared to give credence to the rumours by publishing a "log-book" or diary of the complex and confusing negotiations to win her release. The log-book, written over the past five months by the newspaper's deputy editorial director, Patrick Sabatier, suggests the motives of her kidnappers were financial.

"Information received in Baghdad suggests that the kidnappers are ready to do a deal, having abandoned their maximalist demands," the diary records in April. "But the latest French offer does not yet satisfy them." However, M. Sabatier, in a separate article, said that Libération had not been told whether a ransom was paid. Mme Aubenas, 44, was released on Saturday.

'Log-book' of Iraq kidnap suggests France paid ransom for hostage


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