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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 June, 2005, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK
Australia hostage rescued in Iraq
Douglas Wood on a videotape
Douglas Wood was abducted in April
Australian hostage Douglas Wood has been rescued from his captors after being held for six weeks in Iraq.

"I am delighted to inform the house... Mr Douglas Wood is safe from his captors," PM John Howard told the Australian parliament.

He said the engineer, 63, seized in late April, had been rescued in an Iraqi military raid backed by the US.

His release came as at least 33 Iraqi security personnel were killed in two separate suicide bombings.

A bomber dressed as an Iraqi soldier blew himself up at an army canteen in the town of Khalis, 60km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, killing 25 soldiers as they gathered for lunch.

Hours later, a suicide car bomber slammed into a police patrol in southern Baghdad, killing at least eight.

At least 900 people have died in attacks since Iraq's new government was formed six weeks ago.

First Australian taken

Mr Howard told parliament Mr Wood was in the hands of the Australian authorities in Baghdad and was undergoing medical checks, but was well.

It's a wonderful outcome for this man
John Howard
Australian Prime Minister
"Mr Wood was recovered a short while ago in Baghdad in a military operation which I'm told was conducted by Iraqi forces, in co-operation in a general way with force elements from the United States," he said.

An Iraqi spokesman said Mr Wood was found under a blanket.

"He was tied down and they [rebels] claimed that he was their father and he was sick," Iraqi General Nasir Abadi told a news conference in Baghdad.

"But when they [the troops] uncovered him, they found him."

Mr Howard said no ransom had been paid for Mr Wood's release.

He praised the efforts of the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari in helping to secure the release.

"I hope very shortly to express my thanks for the efforts of his forces and may I record again our thanks to our American friends for their constant support and availability and co-operation," Mr Howard said.

"It is a wonderful outcome for this man who suffered so much and it's a tribute to the work of our Iraqi and American friends that this has come about."

Australia sent an emergency response team to Baghdad after Mr Wood, who is married to an American and lives in the US, was seized by a rebel group calling itself the Shura Council of the Mujahideen of Iraq.

The group initially demanded Australia pull its troops out of Iraq or else they would kill Mr Wood.

He was the first Australian taken hostage in Iraq, where there are about 1,400 Australian troops stationed.

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