Foreign minister Alexander Downer confirmed on Sky News this morning
that the rescue of hostage Douglas Wood in Iraq yesterday was “the
result of a tip-off that was received from an intelligence source.”

The
foreign minister, and Wood’s family, also offered their public
appreciation of the contribution of Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly’s role
in the successful rescue of Douglas Wood.

So when should we
expect the apologies from News Limited’s two angry columnists, Piers
Akerman and Andrew Bolt, who wrote tirades against the Sheik and his
role in the Wood saga on consecutive days in early May?

On 10 May, under the heading: “Douglas Wood and the repulsive Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly,” Akerman wrote in TheDaily Telegraph:
“No-one outside hostage Douglas Wood’s immediate family can possibly
imagine the level of despair which has led them to seek the
intervention of the repulsive Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly in a bid to
free the Australian from his brutal Iraqi kidnappers,” and went on:
“Sheik Elhilaly may live in the West but he doesn’t understand and
doesn’t appear to appreciate our society’s virtues.”

A day
later, Bolt followed the party line in the Herald Sun with a column
headed: “Mufti mixes motives,” which included comments like “Hilaly is a
Sunni extremist, like the men believed to hold Wood,” and: “Our senior
Islamic cleric values the terrorists who kill and kidnap countless
victims, most of them Iraqis. And he wants Wood freed because killing
him won’t help Muslims here, most Australians already think Howard is a
toady, and the real enemy is America.”

Two appreciative and gracious columns coming up?