CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australian hostage Douglas Wood was freed from his Iraqi captors on Wednesday after being held for six weeks, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said.
"Mr Wood was recovered a short while ago in Baghdad in a military operation which I”m told was conducted by Iraqi forces, in cooperation in a general way with force elements from the United States," Howard told the Australian parliament.
Howard said Wood was now safe and well under the protection of Australian troops in Baghdad.
Wood, a 63-year-old engineer married to an American woman, has been held hostage since early May, when a two-minute video of him was delivered to news agencies.
Iraqi militants had warned Australia to begin withdrawing its troops from Iraq or they would kill Wood.
Australia”s conservative government, a staunch U.S. ally and among the first to join the war on Saddam Hussein”s Iraq two years ago, refused to give in to the militants” demands.
A new contingent of 450 Australian troops has recently been deployed to southern Iraq to provide security and to train the Iraqi army, taking Australia”s total troop numbers in and around Iraq to about 1,400.