Australian Hostage Free After Raid on House

An Australian hostage is free in Iraq following a raid by Iraqi and American troops. Douglas Wood had spent six weeks in captivity. Australian officials confirmed his rescue from a house in a Baghdad suburb. A young Iraqi was also freed in the raid.

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And I'm Robert Siegel.

In Baghdad today, a high-profile success for an Iraqi army unit that rescued an Australian hostage. Douglas Wood was kidnapped with his Iraqi driver and translator back in April. The Australian government sent an emergency rescue team to Baghdad within days of Wood's capture. And an Australian Muslim cleric also traveled to the Iraqi capital to try to contact the kidnappers. In the end, it was an Iraqi military sweep of a Baghdad neighborhood that freed Wood. NPR's Deborah Amos has the story.

DEBORAH AMOS reporting:

Douglas Wood was found tied up under a blanket in the back room of a Baghdad house. The rescue was a relief as well as a surprise to Australia's counterterrorism chief, Nick Warner, who'd been working to free Wood as part of the emergency rescue team.

Mr. NICK WARNER (Counterterrorism Chief, Australia): Let me confirm, and let me confirm with great delight that Douglas Wood, who was abducted on the 30th of April, was rescued earlier today. He's as well as you could expect him to be after enduring what has been 47 days in captivity.

AMOS: Wood's captivity ended soon after Iraqi soldiers on a security sweep became suspicious of what appeared to be an empty house in a Baghdad neighborhood, said Captain Randy Green, the battalion's US adviser. Reached by phone, Captain Green said the Iraqi commander radioed for permission to break down the door.

Captain RANDY GREEN (US Adviser to Iraqi Army Battalion): They busted that door down, and that's when the insurgents fired upon them. His guys jumped out of the way from the bullets, didn't get hit, didn't return fire. But the force that they came in with overwhelmed the two insurgents that were inside. They wrestled them to the floor. The Iraqis overwhelmed them.

AMOS: The Iraqis still didn't know there was a hostage inside until they broke open a locked door at the back of the house, said Captain Green, who met Douglas Wood when the Iraqis walked him out of the house.

Capt. GREEN: I introduced myself to him and told him we were going to get him home. He was very excited. He was almost in tears, I think.

AMOS: Wood was rescued along with a 19-year-old Iraqi, also a hostage in the house. But the two men kidnapped with Wood--his translator and his driver, Iraqis Wood had met and befriended in Baghdad--were not found with him. An Australian Embassy official broke the news to Adel Farhawi's wife Mona Jasem(ph).

Ms. MONA JASEM: (Through Translator) They said my husband had been moved away from Douglas Wood a week after the kidnapping took place.

AMOS: Five foreign hostages have been released in the past month. But this is the first time the Iraqi army has carried out an operation to rescue foreign hostages. Douglas Wood thanked them. His statement was read by an Australian official with an Iraqi general by his side.

Unidentified Man: It's a positive sign for the future of Iraq that Iraqi soldiers played such a key role in my release.

AMOS: But at the same time, Iraqi soldiers and police are among the prime targets of the country's deadly insurgency. Hours before the successful Baghdad raid, at least 25 Iraqi soldiers were killed and 29 wounded. A suicide bomber dressed in an army uniform stood in a lunch line at an army barracks north of Baghdad. He detonated the explosives concealed under his uniform. Deborah Amos, NPR News, Baghdad.

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