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Jill Carroll Denounces US, Praises “Insurgents”

From the "Paper Of Treason," the New York Times:

A video grab shows released U.S. journalist Jill Carroll as she speaks to Baghdad Television in Baghdad March 30, 2006.

Reporter Freed in Iraq, 3 Months After Abduction

March 31, 2006

Reporter Freed in Iraq, 3 Months After Abduction

By KIRK SEMPLE and DEXTER FILKINS

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 30 — Jill Carroll, the American reporter kidnapped in Baghdad nearly three months ago, was freed Thursday, saying she had spent most of her time in a small room but had been well treated by her captors.

Ms. Carroll, 28, was dropped off in a Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad at midday and walked into the nearby offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni political group, dressed in a light-green head scarf and gray dress. From there, she was taken to the Green Zone, the heavily fortified area in central Baghdad, where the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, said she was in "good health and good spirits."

" I was treated very well; it’s important people know that, " Ms. Carroll said in an interview with an Iraqi, conducted in the Sunni party’s offices and shown on television later in the day. "They never threatened me in any way."

"All I can say right now is I am very happy," said Ms. Carroll, who in an earlier video praised her captors and the insurgents fighting the Americans. "I am happy to be free and I want to be with my family."

Ms. Carroll, a freelance reporter, was kidnapped at gunpoint on Jan. 7 as she left the offices of a prominent Sunni politician. Her kidnappers had threatened to kill her. In videotapes released during her captivity, Ms. Carroll wept and pleaded for her freedom. In the interview shown Thursday, she said she was never told why she was being held. The kidnappers shot to death Ms. Carroll’s Iraqi interpreter as the abduction unfolded. "They didn’t tell me what was going on," she said.

The shadowy and little-known group that released Ms. Carroll said it had freed her because the American government had agreed to some of its conditions. The group, called the Revenge Brigade, had demanded that the United States release all Iraqi women from its prisons. In late January, the American command announced that it had freed five Iraqi female detainees, but said that the release had nothing to do with the kidnappers’ demands.

In a news conference here, Mr. Khalilzad said no American officials in Iraq "entered into any arrangements with anyone" to secure Ms. Carroll’s release. Four other Iraqi women were still being held in American detention centers, American officials said. Editors at The Christian Science Monitor, the newspaper that was employing Ms. Carroll at the time of her abduction, also said they had conducted no negotiations with her kidnappers.

Ms. Carroll, who grew up in Michigan and graduated from the University of Massachusetts, was part of a small corps of intrepid young freelance reporters in Baghdad. She had learned more Arabic than many and had cultivated a keen interest in Iraqi society.

In a videotape posted Thursday on the Internet, made before her release, Ms. Carroll denounced the American presence in Iraq and praised the insurgents fighting here. In the video, Ms. Carroll smiled, laughed once and gestured in a seemingly relaxed manner, saying she felt guilty about being released while so many Iraqis were still suffering.

Ms. Carroll, apparently knowing she would be released, denounced what she described as the "lies" told by the American government and predicted that the insurgents would defeat the Americans in Iraq. "I feel guilty. I also feel that it just shows that the mujahedeen are good people fighting an honorable fight, a good fight. While the Americans are here, the occupying forces, you know, treating the people in a very, very bad way. So I can’t be happy totally for my freedom because there are people still suffering in prisons, in very difficult situations."

Ms. Carroll was seated in front of a white background, where she answered questions put to her in accented English by a man standing offscreen. The video was distributed by SITE, a Washington, D.C.-based group that tracks jihadist Web sites.

These kind words for her captors were a sharp contrast to her demeanor on the videotapes made shortly after her kidnapping, in which she appeared distraught, weeping and terrified. Ms. Carroll’s seeming sympathy for her captors suggested either that she was pretending in hopes of gaining her release or that, after suffering weeks of extreme duress, she had fallen under the sway of her kidnappers.

The light-green head scarf that Ms. Carroll was wearing at the time of her release, and the head scarf she wore in most of the videos shown during her captivity, is the typical dress for Iraqi women. Ms. Carroll was wearing one at the time of her abduction, in large part to conceal her identity as an American reporter on Baghdad’s chaotic streets.

Dr. Alan Manevitz, a psychiatrist and trauma expert at New York Presbyterian Hospital, said it would not be surprising if she suffered from a degree of Stockholm syndrome, a condition in which hostages become sympathetic to their captors. The name comes from a bank robbery in Sweden in 1973 in which hostages were held in a vault for six days.

"It’s a form of brainwashing in a deprived state where victims emotionally bond with the captors in order to survive," Dr. Manevitz said. He stressed that he did not know Ms. Carroll and could speak about the syndrome only in general terms. "People can feel helpless and hopeless, and any small act of kindness — not killing her, giving her food, letting her have a shower — can lead to bonding with the captor." The captor, he said, becomes both tormentor and savior.

Ms. Carroll’s whereabouts had been unknown since her abduction, carried out by armed men who cut off her car down the street from the offices of Adnan Dulaimi, the Sunni politician. Ms. Carroll, an accomplished swimmer, broke free of her kidnappers and was chased down the street, according to witnesses. Her interpreter, Allan Enwiyah, 32, was shot dead as he tried to make a call on his cellphone, while her driver managed to run away.

Dozens of people are kidnapped on Baghdad’s streets every day — most of them for ransom — and they are often sold while in captivity from one group to another. Though she made no mention of being traded from one group to another, it was unclear on Thursday whether Ms. Carroll had been released by the same men who had captured her. The motives of the group were unknown as well; some officials speculated that the kidnappers had originally grabbed Ms. Carroll in the hope of securing a ransom and began to demand the release of the Iraqi women after it seemed less probable to them that they would get money.

In the weeks after her kidnapping, Ms. Carroll’s captors released three videotapes, which showed her in increasing distress. The kidnappers’ deadline passed, and there was no further word of her. On Feb. 28, Iraq’s interior minister told ABC News that Ms. Carroll was still alive, that he knew who had kidnapped her and that he believed she would be released soon.

In the United States, Ms. Carroll’s family reacted joyously to word of her release, as did the editors of The Christian Science Monitor. "My cousin, Mary Beth Carroll — Jill’s mother — and all of our family are delighted, thrilled and ecstatic that Jill has been released," Peter Alonzi said in a statement he read outside her home in Evanston, Ill. "My wish is that this joyous occasion will offer hope to all the mothers of Iraq whose children have been kidnapped. May they all be returned safely and swiftly to their mothers’ arms.’ "

Tariq al-Hashemi, the general secretary of the Iraqi Islamic Party, said at a news conference that Ms. Carroll walked into the office and handed officials a paper written in Arabic asking that the party help her.

Alaa Makki, another leader in the party, said Ms. Carroll seemed wary about talking about her captors.

"We asked her, ‘Why did you come to the I.I.P.? Why did you choose the I.I.P.?’ " he recalled. "She said, ‘I really don’t know.’ "

He went on: "She said, ‘I promised the kidnappers not to speak.’ She was a little bit frightened. She was very careful. She didn’t give much information."

In the interview shown on television on Thursday, Ms. Carroll said she had been almost entirely cut off from the outside world. She did not know where she had been held, and said her room had a window but that it was obscured. She was well fed and was permitted to take showers and go to the bathroom whenever she wanted. She was able to watch television and see a newspaper only once.

"I didn’t really know what was going on in the outside world," she said.

Her release, she said, was as mysterious as her capture. "I don’t know what happened," she said. "They just came to me and said, ‘O.K., we’re letting you go now.’ "

Ms. Carroll is the only American woman to have been kidnapped in Iraq and, according to her family, was motivated by a desire to publicize the hardships facing the Iraqi people. Her story of pluck and empathy seemed to capture the public’s imagination.

In addition, her plight struck close to home for many of the journalists here in Baghdad who covered it and for whom kidnapping has become one of the foremost threats.

Ms. Carroll traveled to the Middle East in 2002 with a dream of covering a war. In the American Journalism Review last year, she wrote that she moved to Jordan six months before the start of the war "to learn as much about the region as possible before the fighting began." She worked for a newspaper in Amman and took Arabic lessons.

Once in Baghdad, she began working for a number of publications, including The Christian Science Monitor. As conditions worsened for American and other Western reporters working in Iraq — and major news organizations began investing heavily in armed guards and armored cars — Ms. Carroll continued mostly on a shoestring budget. At the time of her kidnapping, she was traveling in an ordinary car, unprotected by guards.

By the time of her abduction, Ms. Carroll was a well-known face at the Hamra Hotel, the home of many Western reporters. She had grown close to Marla Ruzicka, an American aid worker, and when Ms. Ruzicka was killed in a suicide bombing in 2005, Ms. Carroll organized a memorial service for her at the Hamra.

In lighter moments, Ms. Carroll often got water polo matches going in the hotel’s pool, where she usually emerged as the fiercest competitor.

I think we all know what she is. All we have to figure out was her price.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, March 31st, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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