Few details emerge on Carroll's release - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Few details emerge on Carroll's release

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Posted: Thursday, March 30, 2006 5:43 am | Updated: 3:48 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Wearing a green Islamic head scarf, American reporter Jill Carroll walked into an Iraqi political party office Thursday, set free nearly three months after being kidnapped in an ambush that killed her translator.

"I was treated well, but I don't know why I was kidnapped," Carroll said on Baghdad television, only weeks after she appeared weeping in a video put out by kidnappers who had threatened to kill her.

Her family thanked "the generous people around the world who worked officially or unofficially" to gain her freedom. Her father, Jim, said he was asleep in his North Carolina home when the phone rang at about 6 a.m.

"Hi, Dad. This is Jill. I'm released," the voice on the other end said, he told CNN.

No details were given about the circumstances surrounding her release. The U.S. ambassador said there was no ransom paid by the American embassy, but his remarks left open the question of whether "arrangements" were made by others.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. military was not involved in Carroll's release.

President Bush said, "I'm just really grateful she's released, and I want to thank those who worked hard to release her and we're glad she's alive."

Carroll, 28, was kidnapped Jan. 7 in Baghdad's western Adil neighborhood while going to interview Sunni Arab politician Adnan al-Dulaimi for The Christian Science Monitor. Her translator was killed in the attack about 300 yards from al-Dulaimi's office.

Jim Carroll, father of just released hostage Jill Carroll, says the media should help people remember other hostages still in captivity. (Note: a cellphone rings at the top of the cut)

The previously unknown Revenge Brigades claimed responsibility. The group threatened twice in videotapes to kill Carroll.

"They never hit me. They never even threatened to hit me," she said Thursday, wearing a gray Arabic robe.

"I'm just happy to be free. I want to be with my family."

Carroll said she was kept in a furnished room with a window and a shower, but she did not know where she was.

"I felt I was not free. It was difficult because I didn't know what would happen to me," she said.

She said she was allowed to watch TV once and read a newspaper once.

Asked about the circumstances of her release, she said, "I don't know what happened. They just came to me early this morning and said, 'OK, we are letting you go now.'"

Police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammedawi said Carroll was released near an office of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the main Sunni political organization, in western Baghdad. The party said in a statement that Carroll walked in at 12:15 p.m. carrying a letter written in Arabic asking the party to help her.

Carroll then was transferred to party headquarters, given gifts that included a Quran and was met by fellow journalists and American officials before leaving at about 2:30 p.m., the statement said.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad met with Carroll and said she was in good spirits and anxious to go home. The Italian news agency ANSA said Carroll underwent a medical checkup at the American hospital in the Green Zone.

Khalilzad also said no kidnappers were "yet" in custody, and no one in the U.S. mission was involved in paying a ransom.

"No U.S. person entered into any arrangements with anyone. By 'U.S. person' I mean the United States mission," Khalilzad said.

The Monitor said it was not aware of any negotiations involving money for Carroll's release.

"We're not shading. We're not hiding. We're just saying what we know. And to our knowledge, no one was paid by anyone," said David Cook, the Monitor's Washington bureau chief.

Carroll's family said it would focus on helping her recover. Jim Carroll told the AP at his house in Chapel Hill, N.C., he was waiting to learn more about his daughter's plans before making travel arrangements.

In a statement issued by the Monitor, the family said, "Our hearts are full ... We would like to thank all of the generous people around the world who worked officially or unofficially - especially those who took personal risk - to gain Jill's release."

During Carroll's months in captivity, she had appeared in three videos broadcast on Arab television, pleading for her life. On Wednesday, her twin sister, Katie, made an appeal on the Al-Arabiya network, calling her an "innocent woman."

"I've been living a nightmare, worrying if she is hurt or ill," she said.

Her captors had demanded the release of all women detainees in Iraq by Feb. 26 and said Carroll would be killed if that did not happen. The date came and went with no word about her fate.

On Feb. 28, Iraq's Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said Carroll was being held by the Islamic Army in Iraq, the insurgent group that freed two French journalists in 2004 after four months in captivity.

She was last seen in a videotape broadcast Feb. 9 by the private Kuwaiti television station Al-Rai. Her twin sister, Katie, issued a plea for her release on Al-Arabiya television late Wednesday.

Carroll, who grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., went to the Middle East in 2002 after being laid off from a newspaper job. She had long dreamed of covering a war.

In the American Journalism Review last year, Carroll wrote that she moved to Jordan in late 2002 "to learn as much about the region as possible before the fighting began."

"There was bound to be plenty of parachute journalism once the war started, and I didn't want to be a part of that," she wrote.

Carroll has had work from Iraq published in the Monitor, AJR, U.S. News & World Report, ANSA and other publications. She has been interviewed often on National Public Radio.

ANSA's editor in chief, Pierluigi Magnaschi, wrote Carroll an e-mail, telling her: "Welcome back, Jill. We worried about you and rooted for you for a long time, with all our strength."

Magnaschi invited her to Rome saying, "You deserve this stupendous Rome that is blossoming into spring. We await you."

Carroll is the fourth Western hostage to be freed in eight days. On March 23, U.S. and British soldiers, acting on intelligence gained from a detainee, freed Briton Norman Kember, 74, and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, from a house west of Baghdad.

The three belonged to the Christian Peacemakers Teams group and had been kidnapped with an American colleague, Tom Fox, 54, on Nov. 26. Fox was killed and his body was dumped in western Baghdad on March 9.

Reporters Without Borders said at 86 journalists and media assistants have been killed in Iraq and 39 others have been kidnapped since the war started in 2003. Three Iraqi reporters currently are held hostage.

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