You knew it was coming. Islamonline reports this morning:
CAIRO — The Australian government and people have paid tribute to the role played by the Grand Mufti of Australia to secure the release of the Australian hostage in Iraq from his captors.
“He has made an enormous effort,” said Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.
Sheikh Taj Aldin Al-Hilali has spent much of the past month in Iraq trying to negotiate the release of the Australian contractor, Douglas Wood, who was released during an Iraqi military operation Wednesday, June 15.
“Real credit should be given to him (Hilali) for the effort that he made and the risks that he took including to his own security and in assisting the team’s efforts to try to get Douglas Wood released,” Downer told ABC Wednesday, June 15.
The 63-year-old contractor was kidnapped in late April by a self-styled Iraqi group calling itself the Shura Council of the Mujahedeen of Iraq, which initially demanded that Australia pull its 800 troops out of Iraq.
The top Aussie official also hailed the role of the Muslim minority in Australia in securing the release of the Australian national.
“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 strengths and so we appreciate it very much the contribution Sheikh Al-Hilali and more generally the Australian Islamic Community made,” he said.
Commenting on the news of releasing Wood, the Grand Mufti of Australia said he had met his promise on sparing no efforts to securre the release of the Australian hostage.
“I left Australia for Iraq on May 15, following the kidnap of the Australian national. I committed myself not to leave Baghdad without securing the release of the Australian hostage,” he told IslamOnline.net Wednesday during his stop-over in Cairo.
“After tireless efforts and contacts with different parties as well as breath-taking adventures, the efforts were crowned in success.”
Sheikh Hilali maintained that he engaged in contacts with two Iraqi groups involved in the kidnap process.
“One of the two groups helped me to define the hostage’s location, which was attacked by an Iraqi military team backed by US forces.”
“The hostage was released six hours before he was due to be beheaded and a number of kidnappers were arrested.”…
Call me sceptical, but instead of falling on his knees thanking the Mufti, what Mr. Wood actually said was, “God Bless America” and raised a beer with his Aussie mates. I haven’t seen it reported anywhere that the Mufti gave the tip leading to the raid.
Update: The Herald Sun reports, “Tip came from the streets” with thanks to Vinegar Joe.
IRAQI soldiers rescued Douglas Wood after they were tipped off by a “walk-in” — a civilian who simply walked off the street into a military checkpoint.
The civilian told them of hostages being held in a house in the western suburb of Ghazaliya, one of Baghdad’s most dangerous.
But until they found him under a blanket and strapped to a bed, the Iraqis had no idea it was Douglas Wood in the house.
The informant’s identity will remain secret, as will any reward he might have been paid.