Australia firm in face of second hostage tape
CANBERRA - The family of an Australian man held hostage by Iraqi militants made another televised plea for his freedom on Saturday after his captors released a second video demanding Australia start withdrawing its troops within 72 hours.
Two masked militants stood by with guns pointed toward the hostage in the video which carried the name of the group -- Shura Council of the Mujahideen in Iraq.
"The family is shocked and horrified to hear of this ultimatum from Douglas' captors ... We do not believe Douglas' captivity or this ultimatum will make any difference to the policy of the Australian government," Wood's brother Malcolm said in a televised statement on Saturday to be shown on Al Jazeera.
"Douglas is a warm man of generous heart and spirit. His work is to help the people of Iraq toward a better life. We respect the people of Iraq, their patriotic spirit and their right to independence."
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer stood firm on Canberra's refusal to give in to the militants holding Wood.
"The important thing is that we don't look as though we're starting to cave in and give in to demands," he told Australian radio on Saturday.
"If you give in to demands ... more people eventually ... will be taken hostage and further demands made, so it's important we be strong and that, for the government's part, it just continues working at trying to get Douglas out."
Downer has said that Wood may have been kidnapped from his Baghdad apartment up to two days before the first two-minute video was delivered to news agencies in Baghdad on Sunday.
That video showed Wood pleading at gunpoint for Australia, Britain and the United States to withdraw troops from Iraq.
Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, was among the first to join the war on Iraq two years ago.
A new batch of 450 Australian troops are due to arrive in southern Iraq in the coming weeks to provide security and train the Iraqi army. They will take the total number of Australian troops in and around Iraq to about 1,400.
Opinions polls showed in May last year that nearly two-thirds of Australians believed the war on Iraq was unjustified. Half of Australians believed it was not worth sending troops to Iraq, while 40 percent backed the conservative government's decision.
Australia angered Spain and the Philippines last year when it accused them of encouraging terrorists by pulling their troops out of Iraq. The Philippines brought their troops home early to save the life of a Filipino hostage.