BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. Muslim advocacy group arrived in Baghdad on Saturday to plead for the release of American hostage Jill Carroll, while an Iraqi official urged U.S. forces to free six detained Iraqi women in a bid to save the journalist.
A deadline set by kidnappers, who threatened to kill Carroll unless U.S. forces released all Iraqi women in military custody, passed late Friday with no word on her fate.
A delegation from the Council on American-Islamic Relations flew to Baghdad from neighboring Jordan in a bid to drum up momentum for Carroll's release. The 28-year-old was abducted Jan. 7 in a tough west Baghdad neighborhood.
"We are the only people who have come from outside of Iraq to call for Jill's release and we are very hopeful they will hear our message on behalf of American Muslims," Nadi Awad, the group's executive director said at Baghdad International Airport. "Harming her will do (the kidnappers) no good at all. The only way is to release her."
Also Saturday, Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim Ali said Iraqi authorities have asked U.S. authorities to release six of the nine Iraqi women in U.S. military custody.
"I am making some contacts with the American side to hasten their release because this action might help hastening the release of the kidnapped journalist," Ali told The Associated Press.
Ali said he expected the detained women to be freed Monday or Tuesday, though he stressed their releases were not being arranged as part of an exchange for Carroll.
The U.S. military, which has confirmed it has nine Iraqi women in detention on suspicion of terror-related activities, has declined to comment on whether any were soon to be freed.
American policy is not to negotiate with kidnappers, but U.S. hostage situation specialists are chasing multiple leads to secure Carroll's freedom, including talks with Sunni Arab politicians who may have links to the insurgency.
Circumstances surrounding Carroll's abduction are murky. Since her abduction, the freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor newspaper has been seen only in footage obtained and aired by Al-Jazeera TV station Tuesday.
Her kidnappers, identified as a previously unknown group called "The Revenge Brigade," set a 72-hour deadline Tuesday for the Iraqi women to be freed or they would kill the reporter.
More than 240 foreigners have been taken captive since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and at least 39 have been killed.
Carroll grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., and graduated from the University of Massachusetts. She worked as a reporting assistant for The Wall Street Journal before moving to Jordan and launching her freelance career in 2002, learning Arabic along the way. Most recently, she was working for The Christian Science Monitor.
In a statement aired Friday by two major Arab television stations, her father, Jim Carroll, described his daughter as "an innocent woman" and told the captors that sparing her life would "serve your cause more than her death."
Muslims from Iraq to France have called for release of the journalist, who has reported on the suffering of Iraqis living under U.S. occupation amid a raging insurgency fanned mostly by Sunni Arab militants.