Minister Alexander Downer says Douglas Wood is "extraordinarily
lucky" to have been freed from captivity in Iraq.
The Government has
announced that Iraqi forces have freed 63-year-old Mr Wood, who
had been held by insurgents for six weeks.
Mr Downer says
Australians have not been directly involved in the unusual
rescue, in which a number of people have been detained.
"Not many people that
have been taken hostage have been released in this way," he
"Very, very few have
been released through military action of this kind."
Mr Downer says Mr Wood
is now in the care of the head of the Government's emergency
response team, Nick Warner.
He says Mr Warner is
pleased with Mr Wood's condition.
"He said that
physically he seemed to be in quite good shape," Mr Downer said.
"Mentally, obviously absolutely exhausted."
The Foreign Minister
has personally notified Mr Wood's family of his release.
"I think to start with
they were just slightly disbelieving because their hopes have
been raised and dashed, as you can imagine, over and again over
the last six weeks," Mr Downer said.
"I told them ... that
we had the so-called 'proof of life' test that we'd applied."
The test verified Mr
Wood's identity by asking him a question that required a
Mr Downer says it is
not known if Mr Wood will want to return to the US, where his
wife lives, or to Australia.
"I would imagine he
will need a fairly good rest and not be forced into making
decisions early on," he said.
Mr Downer has praised
Mr Wood's family, describing them as "courageous, great stalwart
He has also praised
the efforts of Sydney-based Sheikh Taj El-Din Al-Hilaly.
"He's made an enormous
effort, the mufti, and I think real credit should be given to
him for the efforts he made and the risks he took, including to
his own security," Mr Downer said.
"That's one of the
assets we have as a multicultural country that people all came
together as team Australia and they brought their different
Opposition Leader Kim
Beazley says hearing of Mr Wood's is a joyous moment.
"I suspect in our
heart of hearts, so many of us felt this is not a moment we
might enjoy and celebrate," Mr Beazley said.
"I think many of us
thought when this terrible saga began that it would not end as
it has ended, with the rescue."