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Freed Reporter Unclear on Motive for Her Abduction

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris. I'm just happy to be free. I just want to be with my family. Those were the words of reporter Jill Carroll today, free after almost three months in captivity in Iraq. There is no word from her kidnappers on why she was let go. Carroll's family and her colleagues at the Christian Science Monitor were thrilled and relieved to learn about her release. We'll hear from them in just a few minutes. First to Baghdad, and NPR's Jamie Tarabay.

JAMIE TARABAY reporting:

Before she was kidnapped, Jill Carroll tried hard to keep a low profile while working in Iraq. She dressed like Iraqi women do, covered her hair and traveled in a battered-looking car. But after she was seized on January 7, Carroll became famous.

(Soundbite of Iraqi television)

TARABAY: Her newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor, put together a public service announcement that Iraqi television stations agreed to run free of charge. Arab newspapers praised her independence. Journalists in Rome draped a huge poster of Jill on their city hall. And in Paris, demonstrators at the Eiffel Tower called for her release. But perhaps of all the appeals, those that mattered most came from Iraq's Sunni Arab politicians. Carroll was supposed to interview one of them, Adnan Al Dailami, the day she was abducted.

(Soundbite of Iraqi television)

TARABAY: On Thursday Iraqi TV ran bulletins to say she was free. Carroll's kidnappers dropped her off near the offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party, part of the biggest Sunni faction in parliament. Before she was handed over to the Americans, she sat down for a television interview with the head of the party, Tariq al-Hashmi. She wore a headscarf as she answered questions about her ordeal.

Ms. JILL CARROLL (Journalist, Christian Science Monitor): Very good treatment, very good treatment. I was kept in a very good, small, safe place, a safe room. Nice furniture. They gave me clothing. Plenty of food. I was allowed to take showers and go to the bathroom when I wanted. Very good, never hit me, never even threatened to hit me.

TARABAY: Carroll says she doesn't know the identity of the people who took her, where she was being held, or if she was even in Baghdad. When asked why she was taken, she said, I really don't know why. She also said she has no idea why she was freed.

Ms. CARROLL: I don't know. I don't know what happened.

Mr. TARIQ AL-HASHMI (Head of Iraqi Islamist Party): You don't know.

Ms. CARROLL: They just came to me and said, okay, we're letting you go now.

TARABAY: Carroll was kidnapped less than 300 yards from Dailami's office. In the weeks that followed, Shiite politicians accused Sunni leaders of knowing where Carroll was being held. The Shiite interior minister told Iraqi television he even had the address of the man who'd kidnapped Carroll, but claimed political pressure prevented him from acting. Tariq al-Hashmi angrily denied the allegations. However, today he said the kidnappers sent Carroll directly to his office, and was eager to show that he helped secure her release.

Mr. AL-HASHMI: And his is the Holy Koran.

Ms. CARROLL: Oh. Okay. Thank you.

Mr. AL-HASHMI: Upon which we (inaudible).

Ms. CARROLL: Thank you.

Mr. AL-HASHMI: What we (inaudible) is the teachings of Islam.

Ms. CARROLL: Thank you. I appreciate it.

Mr. AL-HASHMI: Arrive to your family safely, and I would like you to don't forget the Iraq people.

TARABAY: At a press conference later, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said none of the kidnappers were in custody. He also made it clear the U.S. government was not involved in any negotiations with the kidnappers.

Mr. ZALMAY KHALILZAD (U.S. ambassador, Iraq): No U.S. person entered into any arrangements with anyone. By U.S. person, I mean the United States mission.

TARABAY: Carroll said she's anxious to get home and see her family. She also says that no matter what suffering or difficulty she endured, it doesn't compare to that of the Iraqi people. Carroll's Iraqi translator was killed by the kidnappers when she was seized.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jamie Tarabay
After reporting from Iraq for two years as NPR's Baghdad Bureau Chief, Jamie Tarabay is now embarking on a two year project reporting on America's Muslims. The coverage will take in the country's approx 6 million Muslims, of different ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, and the issues facing their daily lives as Americans.
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