Journalist Jill Carroll Freed By Her Captors in Baghdad

By Jonathan Finer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, March 31, 2006

BAGHDAD, March 30 -- American journalist Jill Carroll, abducted at gunpoint in January, was released Thursday after nearly three months of intensive efforts to free her and public pleas on her behalf from a worldwide chorus of relatives, politicians and religious leaders.

"I was treated very well. That's important people know that," Carroll said in an interview broadcast on the TV station run by the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni Arab organization. "They never said they would hit me, never threatened me in any way. I was just happy to be free, and I want be with my family."

Carroll, 28, a freelance writer who had been working for the Christian Science Monitor, was delivered Thursday morning to a party office in the west Baghdad neighborhood of Amiriyah. She had been kidnapped in Baghdad on Jan. 7 when gunmen ambushed her car, killing her Iraqi interpreter, Allan Enwiyah, 32. Her driver escaped unharmed.

A statement from Carroll's family, posted on the Monitor's Web site Thursday, said: "Our hearts are full. We are elated by Jill's safe release." It also offered prayers for those still held hostage in Iraq.

President Bush, whose spokesman had called Carroll's safe return an administration priority, said in Cancun, Mexico, "I'm really grateful she was released and thank those who worked hard for her release, and we're glad she's alive."

Carroll's release came one week after three members of the Chicago-based advocacy group Christian Peacemaker Teams, taken hostage in November, were rescued by American and British soldiers. Another group member who had been abducted with them, Tom Fox of Clear Brook, Va., was found shot to death March 9.

More than 425 foreigners, and several times that many Iraqis, have been taken hostage since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to U.S. officials who track abductions. The number of Western journalists, contractors and aid workers kidnapped in Iraq has surged since late last year after a lull of several months.

Throughout Carroll's 82-day ordeal, her parents and twin sister, Katie, and supporters throughout the United States, Europe and the Middle East campaigned for her release by appearing on English- and Arabic-language television networks and placing advertisements in Iraqi and regional media.

The blitz, which included a large rally in the streets of Paris and a giant photo of her face hung on City Hall in Rome, stressed that Carroll, an Arabic speaker who had lived in the Middle East for more than three years, appreciated and admired Iraqi culture and had traveled to the war-torn country to report on the plight of its people.

In an article she wrote last year for the American Journalism Review, Carroll said she had moved to Jordan months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq "to learn as much about the region as possible before the fighting began."

In a late-morning interview with reporters in his yard in Chapel Hill, N.C., broadcast by CNN, Jim Carroll said he had spoken with his daughter at 6 a.m. and learned that she was in "good health" and "mentally strong."

"It was a fantastic conversation," he said. "It's been a long haul."

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