- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2006

BAGHDAD — Wearing a green Islamic head scarf, American reporter Jill Carroll walked into an Iraqi political party office yesterday, set free nearly three months after being kidnapped in a bloody ambush that killed her translator.

“I was treated well, but I don’t know why I was kidnapped,” Miss Carroll said on Baghdad television only weeks after she appeared weeping in a video put out by kidnappers who had threatened to kill her.

Her family thanked “the generous people around the world who worked officially or unofficially” to gain her freedom. Her father, Jim, said he was asleep in his North Carolina home when the phone rang about 6 a.m.

“Hi, Dad. This is Jill. I’m released,” the voice on the other end said, he told CNN.

No details were given about the circumstances surrounding her release. The U.S. ambassador said there was no ransom paid by the American Embassy, but his remarks left open the question of whether “arrangements” were made by others.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. military was not involved in Miss Carroll’s release.

President Bush said, “I’m just really grateful she’s released, and I want to thank those who worked hard to release her and we’re glad she’s alive.”

Miss Carroll, 28, was kidnapped Jan. 7 in Baghdad’s western Adil neighborhood while going to interview Sunni Arab politician Adnan al-Dulaimi for the Christian Science Monitor. Her translator was killed in the attack about 300 yards from Mr. al-Dulaimi’s office.

The previously unknown Revenge Brigades took responsibility. The group threatened twice in videotapes to kill Miss Carroll.

“They never hit me. They never even threatened to hit me,” she said yesterday, wearing a gray Arabic robe.

“I’m just happy to be free. I want to be with my family.”

Miss Carroll said she was kept in a furnished room with a window and a shower, but she did not know where she was.

“I felt I was not free. It was difficult because I didn’t know what would happen to me,” she said.

She said she was allowed to watch TV once and read a newspaper once.

Asked about the circumstances of her release, she said, “I don’t know what happened. They just came to me early this morning and said, ‘OK, we are letting you go now.’”

Police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammedawi said Miss Carroll was released near an office of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the main Sunni political organization, in western Baghdad. The party released a statement that Miss Carroll walked in at 12:15 p.m. carrying a letter written in Arabic asking the party to help her.

Miss Carroll then was transferred to party headquarters, given gifts that included a Koran and was met by fellow journalists and American officials before leaving about 2:30 p.m., according to the statement.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad met with Miss Carroll and said she was in good spirits and anxious to go home. The Italian news agency ANSA said Miss Carroll underwent a medical checkup at the American hospital in the Green Zone.

Mr. Khalilzad also said no kidnappers were “yet” in custody, and no one in the U.S. mission was involved in paying a ransom.

However, German authorities have arrested a man, the FBI said yesterday, who is accused of trying to extort $2 million from the Monitor newspaper by promising to win Miss Carroll’s release.

“No U.S. person entered into any arrangements with anyone. By ‘U.S. person’ I mean the United States mission,” Mr. Khalilzad said.

The Christian Science Monitor said it was not aware of any negotiations involving money for Miss Carroll’s release.

“We’re not shading. We’re not hiding. We’re just saying what we know. And to our knowledge, no one was paid by anyone,” said David Cook, the Monitor’s Washington bureau chief.

Miss Carroll’s family said it would focus on helping her recover. Jim Carroll told the AP at his house in Chapel Hill, N.C., he was waiting to learn more about his daughter’s plans before making travel arrangements.

In a statement issued by the Monitor, the family said, “Our hearts are full. … We would like to thank all of the generous people around the world who worked officially or unofficially — especially those who took personal risk — to gain Jill’s release.”

During Miss Carroll’s months in captivity, she had appeared in three videos broadcast on Arab television, pleading for her life.

Her captors had demanded the release of all female detainees in Iraq by Feb. 26 and said Miss Carroll would be killed if that did not happen. The date came and went with no word about her fate.

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