Source Pravda.Ru

Australian hostage: withdrawal or death

An Australian Muslim leader is heading for Iraq in a bid to help secure the freedom of an Australian hostage, as a deadline set by his captors draws near.

The mercy mission by Sheik Taj Din al-Hilaly comes just two days after the militants set a 72-hour deadline for the Australian government to begin withdrawing its troops from Iraq.

Sheik al-Hilaly has already appealed with the hostage-takers to free 63-year old Wood in a video which has been broadcast on Arab satellite television network Al-Jazeera.

Al-Hilaly is imam of the Lakemba mosque in Sydney, one of the nation's largest &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/12/06/40464.html ' target=_blank>Muslim congregations. He leaves for Iraq on Monday, Australian time, reports CNN News.

The militants have demanded that Australia withdraw its troops from Iraq by Tuesday morning or they will kill Wood. "Our experience of the past days had forced us to reflect on the many difficulties, sorrows, humiliations experienced by the people of Iraq, who are our fellow brothers and sisters," the statement from the Wood family read.

"We are moved, therefore, to help and to share the burden. To this end ... the family of Douglas Wood will be making a generous charitable donation to help the people of Iraq."

A spokesman for Australia's Islamic community told Reuters that Al-Hilali, who made an appeal in Arabic to the militants on Al Jazeera television at the weekend, hoped Wood's captors had heard the plea and would extend the deadline.

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