By Ellen Knickmeyer and Omar Fekeiki
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, January 21, 2006
BAGHDAD, Jan. 20 -- A Sunni Arab leader with influence among Iraq's anti-American opposition on Friday publicly and angrily demanded the release of a 28-year-old American journalist, telling her kidnappers that Sunni politicians could best address their grievances.
"In the name of God, in the name of religion, in the name of any word of sympathy that exists in Iraq, I urge you to release this female journalist," said Adnan Dulaimi, his voice rising and trembling.
Dulaimi's appeal came near the end of a 72-hour deadline period set by the kidnappers of freelance reporter Jill Carroll, who threatened to kill her if the United States did not release all female prisoners in Iraq.
Carroll, who was working for the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor, had tried to interview Dulaimi, a white-haired elder in Iraq's emerging Sunni political front, just before she was abducted by gunmen on Jan. 7. Her Iraqi interpreter was killed in the ambush.
Speaking before a bank of microphones, Dulaimi said Sunni political leaders had helped negotiate the release of many detainees in the past. Many prisoners in Iraq are minority Sunnis, as Carroll's kidnappers generally are presumed to be, and release of detainees is a frequent demand in abductions.
"Kidnapping this noble journalist will decrease the force of the efforts -- no, it will interrupt them," Dulaimi said.
"This act tore me apart, and pained me," Dulaimi said of the kidnapping. "If it weren't embarrassing, I would cry."
A number of Sunni Arab leaders joined Dulaimi in calling for the release of Carroll as the kidnappers' deadline approached, saying she had focused on telling the story of the Iraqi people. The appeal by Dulaimi, who has denied any involvement in the kidnapping, was one of the most forceful.
Some other Sunni leaders have directed their appeals to the non-Arab news media, trying to avoid fueling a perception among some Sunnis that an American victim of Iraq's violence was getting special attention, as well as resentment about a mosque raid by U.S. forces the day after Carroll's kidnapping.
A cleric of the raided mosque called on Friday for the release of Carroll and all other captives "who are not part of the occupation." But Mahmoud Sumaidaie made his appeal to the Associated Press after his Friday sermon, not to his wide Sunni following as he preached minutes earlier.
AP quoted a U.S. Embassy official as saying U.S. negotiators were in contact with people they believed might have contacts among the Sunni resistance. Throughout the day, al-Arabiya and al-Jazeera satellite TV aired repeated appeals from Carroll's father, James, to his daughter's kidnappers.
The U.S. military has given no sign of intending to release the eight female detainees it says are now in custody.