Freed hostage heads to Britain for rest

By Derek Cheng

Freed New Zealander Olaf Wiig and wife Anita McNaught head home to Britain today for a well-earned rest, having come through unscathed from their hostage ordeal and ensuing media-scrum.

Last night they were celebrating with family and friends in a New York restaurant, making the most of their time together as Olaf's twin brother, Sven, was set to fly home to New Zealand today.

Ms McNaught said the pair were ecstatic to be among loved ones, but were exhausted after media commitments had tied them up since they had arrived in New York early in the week.

"It's been non-stop, absolutely relentless," she said.

Mr Wiig and US journalist Steve Centanni were working for Fox News in Gaza City when they were taken hostage on August 14. The abduction sparked a complex recovery operation involving local Palestinian officials, diplomatic efforts from New Zealand, Britain, America and Australia, and non-government groups.

The pair were released unharmed after 13 days in captivity.

Ms McNaught spearheaded the efforts with public pleas for the men's release, but she said it would have never come about without the collective efforts of several parties. "It's really crucial to emphasise this," she said on ABC's Good Morning America show.

"A lot of the things I did were visible to the people holding them hostage. They knew I was in Gaza making statements, talking to Palestinian people. That, on its own, I don't think would have been enough to have got the guys out."

She said it was the men's "nobility and self-possession" as hostages that played a large role in their release.

"Despite the stress they were under, they kept their cool," she said. "They got to know their captors. They behaved with generosity and courtesy. They took them seriously."

Ms McNaught was working for the BBC in Syria when she heard news of the kidnapping, but rushed to Gaza to do what she could to save the lives of her "boys".

Mr Wiig added: "The terrorists have not met my wife. She is a force to be reckoned with."

He told the programme he felt for the gunmen who put him through the ordeal. "It's really complex. In some ways, I feel such sympathy for the Palestinian cause, you know, in my heart.

"I can't hate them for what they did. I resent on behalf of my family what they did. But there's a funny bit of me that's sympathetic to them still."

They told Mr Wiig he would be released because he was from New Zealand, but that they would kill his colleague because he was a dangerous American. Mr Wiig said he kept that information from his colleague.

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