Wood (born c. 1942), Australian construction engineer,
was held hostage in Iraq between May and June 2005.
was born in Melbourne, but before starting his own
company he had worked for the United States Bechtel
Corporation, a construction firm, and had lived in
California with his American wife for 25 years.
May 2005 Wood was working in the reconstruction of
Iraq on two contracts: the first, building a military
site at Fallujah and the second, renovating buildings
inside the secure "Green Zone". A DVD announcing
his capture by a group claiming ties to the Iraqi
insurgency was released on 2 May.
DVD featured footage of Wood pleading for his life
and appealing to President George W. Bush and Australian
Prime Minister John Howard to withdraw their forces
was believed that Wood was taken hostage 48 hours
before his captors released the DVD. On 4 May Foreign
Minister Alexander Downer appeared on the Arabic television
news channel Al Jazeera directly appealing to the
captors to release Woods.
kidnappers had set a deadline of 5am Australian Eastern
Standard Time (AEST) on May 10, for the Howard government
to pull Australian troops out of Iraq, at which point
they had threatened to kill Wood, but the deadline
came and went with no apparent action from the kidnappers.
Taj El-Din Hilaly, an Australian Islamic leader, carried
a payment from the Wood family which he claimed was
a "charitable donation to the people of Iraq".
Others claimed it would be going indirectly to the
kidnappers because Wood's family asked the kidnappers
how they wished to distribute the money and therefore
amounted to a ransom payment.
arrived in Baghdad in early May and attempted to negotiate
the release of Wood. In a video Hilaly had offered
to exchange himself as a hostage for Wood. Due to
heavy fighting that began later in May, Hilaly was
unable to make contact with the captors. Wood's condition
and whereabouts were uncertain for several days. But
on June 5, Hilaly announced that he had been able
to see Wood, that he had been given vital medication,
and that he was still working toward obtaining Wood's
release. The veracity of these claims was later challenged.
Wood maintains he never met Hilaly and was unaware
of his activities.
in captivity was kept on bread and water, was denied
medical care, was repeatedly beaten, and saw other
hostages shot dead in front of him. Two Iraqis who
worked for his company and were captured with him
were murdered by the hostage-takers and their bodies
left on a rubbish tip.
Release and after
On June 15, Wood was freed following a raid on a house
in Baghdad by Iraqi and US troops. Taj El-Din Hilaly's
spokesperson, however, said that Wood was voluntarily
released due to a co-operative effort that included
Hilaly's negotiating. This claim appears to be incorrect.
The spokesperson also said that Hilaly's trip to Iraq
in May had prevented Wood's captors executing him.
This claim may be true, but has not been verified.
his release Wood signed a television deal with an
Australian television network, Network Ten, giving
them an exclusive interview for a reported AUD$400,000.
The interview was aired on June 26. During the interview,
Wood explained he was in Iraq on behalf of his contracting
business in the construction industry. Wood is also
said to have signed a book deal.
met John Howard, the Prime Minister of Australia,
in July 2005 and apologised for his statements, made
while under duress, calling on Australia and the United
States to withdraw their occupation forces from Iraq.
He said that his release by Iraqi forces proved that
the Coalition efforts to build up the Iraqi security
forces were working.
his release Wood has been the subject of a campaign
of denigration by some people who opposed the war
in Iraq. He has been accused of corruption, war profiteering
and of trading on his fame as a captive. Among his
critics have been Andrew Jaspan, editor of The Age,
a Melbourne newspaper, who described Wood as "boorish"
for calling his captors "arseholes," and
said that Wood had been "well treated" while
August it was reported that Wood was in declining
health and was almost blind as a result of not being
able to take his glaucoma medication while in captivity.
It was also reported that Wood and his wife would
be returning to live in Australia.
his return to Australia, Wood told the media of his
love of the Geelong Football Club and one of the first
things he asked when released was how their season
went. He consequently became a celebrity patron of
the club and was invited into the rooms to sing the
song after a big win at the club's home ground in
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