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Archive for August, 2006

Part 5 • Mujahideen movies

Jill discovers these are hardcore Islamic militants who follow Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

| Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

 

(J.C.) One afternoon in the first week after I’d been taken – and been moved to yet another house near Abu Ghraib – Abu Ali called me into a big sitting room with green velveteen couches. On the far wall, above the TV, was a gigantic poster of waterfalls and rocks and trees.

It was beautiful. I could stare at it and get lost. I thought, I wish I was there, I wish I was there.

(Photograph)
AL QAEDA IN IRAQ: About a week into her captivity, Jill was shown videos of attacks like this one on July 21, 2003 in Baghdad.
MANISH SWARUP/AP

But my captors wanted me to look at something very different: DVDs of them waging war.

By their count, they were killing dozens or even hundreds of soldiers a day. They estimated that Al Qaeda in Iraq had killed at least 40,000 US soldiers. They could prove it, they said, with videos of their operations showing Humvees and tanks blowing up and snipers shooting soldiers.

So Abu Ali – the captor with a stubbly beard – sat me down and showed me the videos. They were in Arabic and were stamped with the symbols of various insurgent groups, and included audio overlays of mujahideen chanting in low, somber tones.

One video showed all these men who were going to be suicide car bombers. They interviewed them, and then showed a field, with cars lined up, and each man getting into a car – waving, just euphoric – and then driving off.

Others had pictures of an American Humvee driving along – and then it would blow up, and they’d cut to a graphic of a lightning flash, and thunder clapping.

Abu Ali would glance over at me as I watched the videos, asking me what I thought of them. I couldn’t say anything good, but I tried to say things that were true, like “Oh, this is the first time I’ve ever seen this. I didn’t know this was out there.”

To Abu Ali, though, this was their mission, a righteous path; this was their work for God.

While I sat there watching them, I felt the insurgents were sending me a message: They hate Americans so much, they’re proud of these attacks. It’s normal to them.

Surely they were going to kill me. How could they not?

(P.G.) The first set of phone-recording equipment that the FBI brought to Jim Carroll‘s North Carolina home didn’t work. A second set, shipped in from the Charlotte office, didn’t work either. Eventually, agents assigned to the Jill Carroll case got the standard wiretap electronics in place.

From the beginning, the FBI identified Jim as someone who could handle hostage negotiations. He received rudimentary training in what to do if contacted: Keep talking, keep them on the phone, try to set a time for a call back.

But no one was sure which numbers Jill would remember and pass along to her jailers. So taps were readied for a number of phones. If the kidnappers called, the FBI would use the recording to try to identify them and their location.

In Baghdad, Monitor staff writer Scott Peterson put a piece of climbing tape on one of his phones, and drew on it a green eye, to remind him which line the government was watching. He and staff writer Dan Murphy were pursuing their own leads with Iraqi sources and seeking the help of Sunni politicians known to have insurgent contacts.

Between them, Messrs. Peterson and Murphy could draw on decades of experience working in dangerous environments. As a reporter and photographer, Peterson’s hot-spot assignments stretched from Angola to Afghanistan. In 1993, he took a machete blow to the head from a mob that killed four journalists in Somalia. Later, he was one of the very few correspondents to enter the Rwandan capital, Kigali, when the genocide began.

Murphy lived for 10 years in Indonesia, where he covered sectarian violence and became one of the world’s experts on Al Qaeda’s operations in Southeast Asia. In Baghdad, he’d been one of Jill’s mentors.

Meanwhile, back in the US, the Monitor enlisted the help of Faye Bowers, a recently retired Washington correspondent with extensive contacts in the dark world of intelligence. She had been instrumental in the negotiations to release Monitor reporter David Rohde, who was jailed by Bosnian Serbs for 10 days in 1995 and won a Pulitzer for stories revealing the first evidence of the Srebrenica massacre.

At Ms. Bowers’s request, US officials also contacted important Sunnis in Iraq, and pushed them to do all they could to secure Jill’s release. Jordanian and European officials, particularly the Germans, provided context about their own efforts to free hostages in Iraq. And an army of Bowers’s contacts, many of them ex-spies, scrolled through their memories, searching for old friends and contacts in the Arab world who might help.

(J.C.) At the beginning of my ordeal, I had hoped my kidnappers were amateurs who wouldn’t really know what to do with me and would start to get very nervous after a few days. Then they’d let me go.

(Photograph)
ZARQAWI: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi spoke in a rare video of him posted on the Web on April 25, 2006.
REUTERS

I knew they were Iraqis, which was good. It was the foreign-born insurgents – such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who beheaded hostages.

They seemed a small group, and they told me they had come together and forged their identity fighting the US military for control of the restive city of Fallujah in a Sunni- dominated area west of Baghdad.

But after about a week in captivity – about the time of the showing of the jihadi videos – it became increasingly clear to me that they were the real deal.

During the precious few hours when the electricity worked, they would sometimes plug in a cassette player, and an angry voice would blare in classical Arabic from the room across the hall, where the guards slept.

I usually only understood a few words, like “America,” “Israel,” and “occupation,” but the point was clear.

“Do you know who that is?” one of the guards asked me at one point. “That is Sheikh Abu Musab. Is he a good man? What is your opinion of Zarqawi?”

I dodged the question. But inside, I felt the fear welling up. These were Zarqawi people! I was an American. I thought again, there was no way I was getting out of this alive.

(P.G.) Perhaps the knowledge of what would happen to Khalid if he disappeared into the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior was what did it. Sitting on a bed in the Monitor’s Baghdad apartment, he finally broke down.

“I knew you wouldn’t believe me if I told you the truth!” he sobbed.

(Photograph)
KEEPING TRACK: The white board used by editors at the Christian Science Monitor to track their efforts to release hostage Jill Carroll.
JOHN NORDELL – STAFF

By this point, Khalid (not his real name) had worked for the Monitor and other media organizations as an interpreter, on and off, for a year-and-a-half. He was a gentle soul, thin and nervous in a birdlike way. He’d come via recommendation from someone in the Coalition Provisional Authority, back when that still existed, and Murphy liked working with him. He was interested in the way that religion and politics fit together, as was Murphy himself.

And for days now, Khalid had said he had a source – two separate sources, actually – who knew where Jill was.

The information – revealed in dribs and drabs over time – was detailed in a way that made it sound credible. It even jibed with other leads coming in. She was being held, allegedly, in Al Adl – the same neighborhood where she was kidnapped and a part of the city known to be rife with insurgents. There were two teams that took turns guarding her, each composed of three men. The house was detached, and the opening in its surrounding wall was a white metal gate – sheet metal, not bars, and streaked with dirt. Behind the gate sat the Monitor driver’s maroon Toyota with a broken window and bullet holes in the side.

The Monitor’s Baghdad team had passed this information along, and the Hereford, England-based security firm hired by the newspaper sent an Iraqi employee into the neighborhood to eyeball possible houses. He found four or five.

But then one of Khalid’s sources went out of town. And his story began to change. Maybe the gate was … black.

What was going on? Late one night, a colonel from the Iraqi Interior Ministry arrived to interview Khalid in Arabic. The colonel was a busy man; he talked to the interpreter a bit, then left on other business. But he made himself clear: At this point, if Khalid didn’t name his source, Khalid would have to come in to the ministry.

He didn’t have to say that bad things happened at the ministry, even to good people.

Khalid was shaken. Murphy, too, was concerned. He sat beside him, and gently asked, again, for the real story. And finally it came out.

His wife had visions, said Khalid. They’re painful and difficult for her, he said, but it’s a gift. She’d warned him not to get involved, but he’d wanted to help. He’d given his wife one of Jill’s cherry-tinted hairs from a hair band which he’d secretly taken from the office. She’d been the one who “saw” where Jill was. Khalid believed her. But he knew Murphy and Peterson wouldn’t.

The reporters were stunned. For weeks now, they’d been pursuing this lead. Now, it seemed, they had been sending people into dangerous neighborhoods based on the musings of a clairvoyant.

From the beginning, investigative tracks dealing with Jill’s possible whereabouts gave the family and her employers a sense of hope and momentum.

Excerpts from readers’ letters
(Photograph)
ORIGAMI: Fourth graders at St. Anthony Catholic School in Boston folded 246 paper cranes for Jill Carroll.
ASHLEY TWIGGS

What they didn’t provide, in the end, was Jill. Leads dried up. Sources disappeared. Demands for ransom turned out to be attempts at extortion.

The curious case of the clairvoyant was perhaps the most extreme example of where tracks went. But it wasn’t unique. Other sources claimed to have a video taken on a cellphone – and described her in detail.

Notes scribbled daily on legal pads by managing editor Marshall Ingwerson give a sense of the rise and fall of these efforts.

From 1/11/06: “New lead. HWG [the US Embassy’s Hostage Working Group] onworking. Source is someone we’ve worked with before … contradictory to [The New York Times’s Dexter] Filkins lead….”

From 1/14/06: “2 tracks still in play. Filkins update: By chance his sources – guard at racetrack saw her yesterday while she was being transferred….”

From 1/19/06: “No more on Dexter’s track. Contradictory info on [Scott Peterson’s] track.”

From 1/20/06: “Dexter track definitely dead….”

One morning, the British security man under contract to the Monitor told Murphy and Peterson that the body of a Western woman had been found in Baghdad. Police were checking the morgue. The two reporters kept the information to themselves, tensely awaiting verification. The report proved untrue.

While the leads were thin, the public support poured in. The Monitor would post on its website a daily selection of e-mails and letters from Jill Carroll supporters of all faiths, and all walks of life. During some of the darkest nights, Mary Beth Carroll would go to her computer and draw some comfort from the strangers’ missives.

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Part 4 : A mother as suicide bomber

As Jill’s parents make a televised plea, she learns of the zeal of women and children in the Iraqi insurgency.

| Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

 

(P.G.) Exhausted, Jim Carroll walked the streets of Washington, headed back to his hotel. He’d hardly eaten all day, so he ducked into a bar for dinner. He hadn’t been there long when his cellphone rang. It was the FBI. They wanted to know the family’s decision.

The previous day, Jan. 17, a video demanding the release of Iraqi women prisoners had aired on Al Jazeera. A 72-hour deadline was given.

This wasn’t going to be pleasant. “We’re not going your way,” Jim told his FBI contact. “We’re going to go with the sympathy statement.”

What do you say to your daughter’s kidnappers? It was a question Carroll felt woefully unqualified to answer. He was a software person, an entrepreneur, not a hostage negotiator. Insurgents had seized Jill Carroll in Baghdad 11 days ago; it was time for her parents to publicly plead for her life. But how? That was something on which experts – all well-meaning – couldn’t agree.

The FBI wanted the father – him – to shake his fist, in essence; to go on TV and address the men who held Jill as murderers and thugs.

In Baghdad, Jill’s colleagues at The Christian Science Monitor thought that would misfire in the Middle East. They said the words should reflect how much Jill’s family loved and missed her. And the message should come from Jill’s mother, Mary Beth.

Well, Jim and Mary Beth and Katie, Jill’s twin sister, had been over this and over this and over it again. They couldn’t thrash any more. Katie insisted that they should trust people Jill trusted; so be it. They’d go with the Monitor’s Baghdad correspondents, and the softer appeal from her mother.

On the other end of the phone, Jim’s FBI contact sounded very unhappy. He was polite, but clear: The bureau did not think this was a good idea. Not a good idea at all.

Jim hung up. He felt he was living in a new world, where you got 1 percent of the data you needed to make a decision, but it didn’t matter; you had to decide anyway, you couldn’t walk away, and you had to do it now, right now – and the price of a misstep might be a vibrant young woman’s life.

Jill’s life.

Despair billowed over him.

(J.C.) As we stood in the small kitchen, Abu Ali, the insurgent with the salt-and-pepper beard who had abducted me, proudly declared that his wife wanted to die.

Um Ali wants to be a martyr. She wants to drive a car bomb!” he said, beaming.

(Photograph)
Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi: She shows how explosives were strapped to her body, which failed to go off when she and three men entered a Jordanian hotel on Nov. 9, 2005. Related story: Women suicide bombers in Iraq.
REUTERS/Jordan TV

Of course, she’d have to wait, since she was now four months pregnant. It is forbidden in Islam to kill a fetus at that age, he explained.

“Oh, OK, OK, oh wow,” I said. I feigned confusion while I tried to think of what to say.

The chaos of dinner preparation swirled around us. The kitchen was typically Iraqi: a cramped space with thin metal countertops that have no cabinets beneath.

Someone had sewed a skirt for the countertop out of gaudy fabric, but one part had torn away. Next to the refrigerator was a giant freezer, covered all over with stickers advertising Maggi-brand soups.

Three children played around our feet – all progeny of the would-be bomber.

I was still unused to captivity, still learning the boundaries, both physical and mental, that my kidnappers had imposed. I didn’t want to offend. But I was shocked at the talk of a mother’s suicide; shocked that Um Ali would blush at her husband’s praise of this plan.

“Oh, I didn’t know women could be car bombers,” was all I could muster.

Later I was told that this was the only way women could be part of the mujahideen. The men could have the glory of fighting in battle. Women got to blow themselves up.

Meanwhile, the big silver platters of food were ready. Men carried them out to the group of insurgents meeting behind the closed door of the sitting room. Based on their comments, this house seemed to be in western Baghdad or near Abu Ghraib (view interactive map).

I talked with Um Ali and other women in the kitchen. Yes, I traveled back and forth between countries for my job, I said. They replied that it was wrong for them to work, that they left school at age 12 to learn to cook and keep house.

Then the dinner platters returned, with the food ravaged – rice everywhere, bones with the chicken chewed off, nothing left but scraps, really.

And the women sat and began to eat the scraps.

I couldn’t believe it! After all the time they’d spent preparing the meal, they got leftovers.

But I sat down with them. And, as I would often do with women over the next three months, I ate from the remains of the communal stew.

(Photograph)

(P.G.) It was a surreal experience. Alone in the Al Jazeera television studio, Jim Carroll stared at the camera, aware that at any moment it would switch on and broadcast his image around the world. He didn’t want that image to be him scratching his nose, so he stayed unnaturally still as the minutes ticked away.

A day earlier, Mary Beth had appeared on CNN, making the family’s first televised response to the kidnappers’ demands. “They’ve picked the wrong person … if they’re looking for someone who is an enemy of Iraq,” she said, adding to her scripted statement. (Read the statement).

Now, it was Jim’s turn.

Finally, after a quarter of an hour, the light blipped, and, on Jan. 20, Jill Carroll’s father made his global TV debut. Live, for the 6:00 a.m. news feed in the Middle East.

“I want to speak directly to the men holding my daughter Jill because they also may be fathers like me….”

When he left the studio after finishing, the woman who had produced the shoot came up to him. Tears were running down her cheeks. “Bingo,” thought Jim. His message appeared to have gotten through. Maybe other tears were running down other cheeks right now, in Iraq.

It had been a busy week. Three days ago, the first video of Jill as a hostage had appeared on Al Jazeera; she’d looked tired and stressed.

On the positive side, the video had been followed by an outpouring of statements calling for Jill’s release, from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Iraq’s Muslim Scholars Association, and Sunni political leader Adnan al-Dulaimi, among others. In Baghdad, Monitor reporter Dan Murphy had been on the phone working his contacts in the Arab world, tapping into a growing disapproval of insurgents taking innocent civilians.

(Photograph)
EGYPT: Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Mahdi Akef. Read statements made on Jill’s behalf.
REUTERS/STRINGER

Mr. Dulaimi perhaps was a particularly important catch. Jill had been seeking to interview him just prior to her abduction. Some Westerners in Baghdad suspected that he, or someone who worked in his office, had been involved in the crime.

Jim was worn out by the struggle over family statements. That had been intense. The FBI’s position – that it was best the father talk strongly in a man-to-man manner – was the considered opinion of bureau counterterror experts, who’d tested it before focus groups of Arabs. Iraq was a male-dominated society, after all.

But the Monitor’s correspondents in Baghdad, plus the British security firm there, thought that approach was culturally insensitive. Iraqi men revere their mothers, they insisted, so the first appeal should come from Mary Beth. And it should depict Jill, not as a lone adult, but as the missing piece of a family – another point they felt would appeal to Iraqi hearts.

In the end the family opted for the mother-first tactics. A day after Mary Beth’s appearance, Jim made his own televised appeal, albeit with words watered down from the FBI’s language. He appeared on both Al Jazeera, the most popular Arabic network, and its more reserved competitor, Al Arabiya.

Neither Mary Beth nor Jim were afraid of the camera. But they were afraid of saying the wrong thing.

In her first appearance, Mary Beth took a few questions, and in answering one said that Jill was a good “ambassador” for Iraq, since she’d reported the struggles of Iraqis’ daily lives. But later someone told her that the word “ambassador,” in Arabic, translates as “government official,” not “general emissary.” And the last thing the family wanted to imply was that Jill worked for any government.

So the family limited media appearances to scripted statements. They asked friends not to speak to the press. Almost without exception, their friends complied, with some even slamming the door on reporters.

But for all their attention to the subject, there was one important thing about their appearances that Jim and Mary Beth didn’t know: Would Jill’s captors be watching?

(J.C.) Held against my will, I learned more about Iraqi insurgents than I would have dreamed possible. On one level, I got a firsthand look at the way they live. While I was imprisoned alone in rooms for long periods, I was also allowed to mix with insurgent families in some of the houses where I was held. I even played with their youngest children – a small joy that helped me endure.

On another level, I heard a lot about what they think, both about themselves and the US. I wanted them to see me as more valuable alive than dead, so I told them that as a reporter I could write their story if I was freed.

(Photograph)
ILLUSTRATION BY JILLIAN TAMAKI

They seized on this idea, perhaps to a degree I hadn’t anticipated. After dinner, some of the men drew up plastic chairs in a walkway area in the middle of the house and held an impromptu press conference – minus questions, and with me as the lone member of the press.

They insisted that they weren’t terrorists, that they were just defending their country against an occupation. They had nothing against Americans, they said. It was the US government that was their enemy.

“If you come to us as a guest to our country, we will open all of our homes to you and feed you and you are welcome,” said one of the men that night. “But if you come to us as an enemy, we will drink your blood and there will not be one of you left standing.”

I hoped the little briefing would help establish my persona as a reporter. To placate them, I’d memorized verses in the Koran. But I never seriously considered the idea of converting. As I learned more about this brand of Islam, and the life of women tied by marriage or family to the insurgency, the more convinced I was that I couldn’t even pretend to convert. As long as I was seen as a reporter and a Christian woman, I figured they might tolerate my missteps. But if I acquiesced to conversion, even if it was insincere, would a “good Muslim” – like Um Ali – also be required to embrace martyrdom?

At moments like this, I thought they were becoming more comfortable with me. Perhaps they wouldn’t kill me.

Um Ali’s son, Bakr, was 3 years old, cute, and spoiled rotten. He’d jump in my lap, and we’d play a little game: He’d put his nose against mine, his head against my head, and we would whisper really quietly together, him in Arabic, me in English. In the early days of my captivity, we’d do it often, and I’d look in his little eyes, and it really comforted me. It felt so good just to hug somebody.

Still, getting through each hour was an accomplishment. Every day was so long. Um Ali would do something nice, like bring me some tea, and I’d try to react normally. But then I’d remember that they’d killed Alan, my interpreter.

That refrain was constantly in my head: Don’t be fooled, Jill. They killed Alan. Don’t be fooled.

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Part 3: The first video

Jill meets Ink Eyes, her chief captor, and makes a video seeking the release of Iraqi women.

| Staff writers of
The Christian Science Monitor

 

(Illustration)
(J.C.) Monday morning – two days after the kidnapping – my captors began trying to convert me to Islam.

He was eager to show me the similarities between Islam and Christianity, so he was telling me how many stories from the Bible are actually in the Koran. I was anxious to make him like me and feel I was sympathetic to him, so much so that I began using more of my Arabic.

He and the others marveled at how much of their language I seemed to have picked up in just one day.

I tried to listen to Abu Ali‘s lesson attentively as he translated complicated Koranic Arabic into more basic Arabic he thought I could understand. He was very pleased that I showed interest in learning. He kept saying there was no pressure, no pressure in Islam, that they were forbidden from forcing people to convert. True acceptance must come from a free will.

They’d kidnapped me, and they all had guns ready to kill me, but, oh no, no pressure there. I falsely assured him that I felt no pressure. I have always been interested in learning about Islam. But only so that I can understand the people I’m covering as a journalist.

Later on, this would come back to haunt me.

(P.G.) Meanwhile, the rest of the world was just beginning to hear about Jill Carroll‘s kidnapping. Journalists in Baghdad had learned of it minutes after it happened, but most held off on reporting the attack. The reason: the Monitor had asked the media to temporarily remain quiet about the crime.

As he hopped from airport to airport on his way into Baghdad, staff writer Scott Peterson had called Boston to add his voice to those of TV network executives and Baghdad reporters who were forcefully arguing for a news blackout. It was a question of Jill’s safety and hostage value. If the kidnappers had made a mistake, and hadn’t known they were snatching a young US female reporter, a blackout might provide them space to release her unharmed. If they had targeted her – a scenario that seemed more likely – the blackout might buy time for a quick negotiation, and make Jill seem less valuable.

More critically, a blackout might protect Jill if she was hiding her Arabic or lying to her kidnappers about her name or background.

The Western media who live in Baghdad are a tight group and consult on everything from security to parties; thus they’re easy to reach en masse. On Jan. 7, managing editor Marshall Ingwerson sent them a formal request to sit on stories about Jill. From his small office off the Monitor newsroom, Mr. Ingwerson fielded a steady stream of inquiries.

“We’d prefer you not write,” he told callers. “Most of your colleagues are respecting this blackout.”

That was true – most did. Some helped enforce it, alerting the Monitor to isolated stories popping up on the Web.

But Jill wasn’t quickly released. And after two days had passed, editors around the world began to grumble. The executive editor of the Associated Press contacted Ingwerson to argue it was time to go public.

Finally, the Monitor agreed. It issued a statement identifying Jill as a “freelance reporter.” Her work for foreign publications, rather than her US clients, was emphasized. The point, again, was to lower her perceived value.

The blackout taught editors something about the degree of cooperation they could expect from media colleagues. Some hadn’t expected it to last five minutes, yet it had lasted for days. Monitor editors began to formulate a plan – something strategic – for shaping Jill’s image in the Middle East.

(J.C.) Monday afternoon the kidnappers called me into the sitting room. Sitting against a wall was a man wearing a kaffiyeh – the traditional Arab men’s headdress, made of checked fabric – wrapped around his head and face. All I could see were his ink-black eyes.

Ink Eyes addressed me in English. His voice had a familiar, gravelly quality.

“Are you happy here?” he asked. “Is everything OK?”

I knew that voice – it was the interpreter, the man who’d grilled me about my background in the initial hours of my captivity. I soon learned that he was more than an interpreter; he was their leader.

He went on to say that his group had kidnapped a French journalist a year earlier, and that she’d asked why she was treated so well. “So you’ll say you were treated well when you go home,” he’d told her.

Another shock – these were the men who’d taken Florence Aubenas. A French foreign correspondent for the paper Liberation, she was kidnapped in Baghdad in January 2005.
(See story | Graphic | Interactive map.)

Well, at least she’d been released, though at the time I didn’t know it was after a five-month ordeal.

Ink Eyes kept talking. “We need to make a video of you,” he said. “We want your family to see this. We want to make them see you in a bad way so that they want to move quickly.”

A vision flashed through my head: I was going to be one of those hostages surrounded by men with guns in a video broadcast on Al Jazeera. I’d always worried about becoming one of them.

Seeing my alarm, they said I didn’t have to make the video if I didn’t want to. I assured them I did want to. They were armed, I didn’t want to know the consequences if I said no.

Then the man with the black eyes said, “Jill, where is your mobile [phone]? Yesterday, the American soldiers came very close, very close to this place where you were. Why did they do that?”

Again, they were accusing me of communicating with the US military. This was bad.

“I am the leader of this little group, and I’m a little more sophisticated than my friends here,” he continued. “Do you have something in your body, something to send a signal to your government?”

Then he told me a story: He’d had a friend held at the US prison at Abu Ghraib. This friend claimed that Marines had given him medicine that put him to sleep, many times. After he got out, he went to the doctor, had an X-ray, and they’d found an electronic tracking device implanted in his body.

“If you have this in your body, tell me now and we’ll go and take it out,” Ink Eyes said, making a plucking gesture with his hand.

“No, I don’t have this! I don’t have this!” I nearly shouted through tears. “Bring a woman. We’ll go in the bathroom right now, and I’ll take all my clothes off and she can look at me and see that I don’t have anything.”

He waved his hand and said that wouldn’t prove I didn’t have a transmitter implanted in my body. Then he changed the subject, apparently letting go of the issue. Eventually, dinner for the men arrived – fish, an expensive treat in Iraq, in honor of me.

I left the room to go eat with the women and children. But it was clear that this suspicion was not going away.

After dinner they told me to put on a track suit they’d given me two days earlier and remove my head scarf. I wanted to wear my hijab if they were going to film me; they said no, they wanted to make my hair messy, make me look bad.

They brought me back into the sitting room, and men began filing in, carrying AK-47s and RPGs. They were cavalier about their weapons; one AK was lying on the ground, pointed right at me. I thought, “If that thing goes off, it’s going to blow off my leg.”

They were holding up a sheet, moving it here and there, trying to find the best light. There were maybe 10 men in the room, and each had an opinion; it was “no, no, no, here,” and then “no, no, no, over here.”

Ink Eyes had written up a short speech, but he wasn’t going to deliver it. Abu Rasha, the man who’d fought soldiers the day before in Baghdad, was going to do it instead. He kept practicing it aloud; I didn’t understand most of it, except for when he said “CIA.”

(Photograph)
ACTION: The first video was made Jan. 9 with Abu Rasha, the man in the middle, reading a speech in Arabic. About 30 seconds of the four-minute video were aired, without sound, on Al Jazeera Jan. 17.

Then the leader turned and coached me intently. I was to say that they were mujahideen fighting to defend their country, that they wanted women freed from Abu Ghraib prison, and the US military, particularly the Marines, were killing and arresting their women and destroying their houses.

And I must cry, on cue.

Abu Rasha donned a jumpsuit and wrapped his head in a kaffiyeh. Two others did the same. I sat down in front of them and the camera rolled.

I started to give my speech. Abu Ali standing behind the camera ran his fingers down his cheeks, to signal that I needed to cry.

It took me a while to work up to the crying part. But I had a lot of pent-up emotion and stress, and by the time we finished, I was crying for real. (Later, I learned that Al Jazeera only aired about 30 seconds – without audio – of that first four-minute tape. The tears were never broadcast.)

As the taping ended, I put my head down and I just kept crying. I heard Abu Rasha sigh behind me in a sympathetic way, like he felt bad, and some of the other men were making little noises like they felt bad that I was sitting there crying in front of them.

Ink Eye’s reaction was different. He showed no sympathy. And I knew his opinion of me – my personal character – might make the difference in whether I lived or died.

He said, “We have to do this again.”

He wanted me to cry more and talk longer, and say how the Marines were destroying things, destroying their homes.

(Photograph)
EMBEDDED: Jill is shown in western Iraq in November 2005 with members of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment.
JILL CARROLL COLLECTION

They had a special enmity for the US Marines. What they didn’t know – and I hoped they would never find out – was that I had been embedded with the Marines for five weeks in November and December.

Back then, the lieutenant of the platoon I was with had said that if anyone ever kidnapped me, a platoon of Marines would come to my rescue.

So, in the retake of the video I made a point of emphasizing the word “Marines.” I said, “Their government isn’t of the Iraqi people. It is a government brought by the American government and by the MARINES…”

I wanted them to know I was thinking of them. Come get me, guys. Please, come save me.

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(Photograph)

Part 2 : A spy with a homing device

A first-person account by Jill Carroll (J.C.) with contextual narrative by Peter Grier (P.G.).

US soldiers come so close on the first night that Jill’s captors accuse her of hiding a homing device.

| Staff writers for the Christian Science Monitor

(P.G.) When Jill Carroll was nearly 4 years old, her family held a picnic at Kensington Park, a beach and lake recreation area outside Detroit. At one point, her mother, Mary Beth Carroll, realized that Jill had disappeared.

(Photograph)
SHE FOUGHT: Jill Carroll, age 4, was nearly abducted from this Michigan beach on the day this photo was taken in 1981.
COURTESY OF THE CARROLL FAMILY

Mary Beth turned around and saw a strange man walking away, his arms extended as if he were a fork lift. His cargo was Jill, who was lying on her back, screaming and punching.

When Mary Beth caught up to him, the man said he thought the little girl was lost. Only later, after the shock had worn off, did she realize he might have been trying to abduct her daughter.

At least she fought, her mother thought.

Mary Beth Carroll took some comfort from this memory after her daughter was seized in Baghdad. Jill would be terrified, Mary Beth believed. But she would not cower.

Mary Beth, a retired high school teacher, lives in Evanston, Ill. On the morning of Jan. 7, she was in Minneapolis visiting her parents.

Her cellphone rang at 5:30 a.m., rousing her from sleep. A woman from the State Department was on the line. She was sympathetic but direct. “Steel yourself, Mrs. Carroll,” she said. “Your daughter has been abducted and her translator killed.”

Mary Beth called Jill’s twin sister, Katie, and other family members, then quickly showered and dressed.

An hour or so later, Marshall Ingwerson, managing editor of the Monitor, reached her. Calmly, Mary Beth told him that Jill could think on her feet and was probably smarter (with an IQ of 140) than her kidnappers.

Mr. Ingwerson thought Jill’s mother was incredibly strong and was trying to comfort him. But she was really trying to comfort herself.

The first day, she thought she’d never sleep again. But she was so on edge that her body became exhausted. Jim Carroll, Jill’s father who lives in North Carolina, experienced the same phenomenon. The whole ordeal was grueling, but even on the worst days, sleep came quickly for most of the

(J.C.) I spent my first full day of captivity sitting in a plastic chair in the second-floor bedroom of a house in Baghdad, while the sound of gunfire echoed around me.

I kept thinking, it’s just Baghdad, that’s the way it is. But the shooting, which had begun the night before, went on all day. Some of it was close.

Around dusk Abu Rasha, the No. 2 in charge and owner of the house, came into the room. He looked exhausted.

“I’m very, very tired, all day I’m fighting with the soldiers,” he said. Then he made a ggggg-ggg sound, in imitation of an automatic weapon.

He sat down on the bed and sighed.

“They’re right here. They’re very near,” he said. “Why, Jill? Why are the soldiers here? Why are the soldiers so near here?”

The question was an accusation.

I realized he thought I was somehow telling the US military where I was. For my own safety, I needed to make him see I was very upset by that idea.

“I don’t know! I don’t know!” I said, my voice rising.

“You don’t have a mobile phone?” he said. “Maybe in your hair?”

I ripped off my head scarf and shook my hair loose. This was completely inappropriate behavior that would normally have deeply offended a Muslim man as apparently devout as he, but I was desperate.

His hands went through my hair, checking my scalp for whatever he imagined I might have hidden there. Finally, he was satisfied. He left the room.

I collapsed into the plastic chair and started to cry, silently, afraid he would be angry if he heard me.

But suddenly he returned. He rushed over, grabbed my hand, and knelt next to me.

“I’m so sorry. No, Jill, don’t cry. I’m so, so, so sorry,” he said, emphatically. “No, no, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m your brother.”

He was overwrought. Why should he care if I was upset? He’d kidnapped me, after all.

I knew I had just learned something important, something that might help me get through whatever was to come.

The next day I was told that US and Iraqi soldiers had raided the Um al-Qura Mosque – just a mile from Adnan al-Dulaimi‘s office.

Much later, I learned that the raid was prompted by a tip from an Iraqi civilian about my location. It was the closest US forces would come to rescuing me over the next three months.

In the first minutes of my kidnapping the insurgents, who had seized me and killed Alan, seemed shocked at their success. They didn’t appear to have a plan for what to do next.

But in the days that followed, a pattern developed that held throughout my captivity.

I was moved often. They provided me meals that Iraqis would think fit for guests, as well as small luxuries such as expensive toiletries.

(Graphic)
View the neighborhood where Jill was held the first night of her captivity in our interactive map.

Yet I was a prisoner. My captors would unexpectedly explode with bitter accusations that I was a spy, or Jewish, or hiding a homing device. They’d boast about their exploits fighting – and once sharing a meal – with American soldiers while I was in captivity.

In response, my mood would veer wildly. One moment I’d be sure they were going to kill me. The next I’d think they were going to let me go, that it was only a matter of time.

Overall, I just wanted it to be over with, whatever “it” was going to be. I remember being in a hurry to get done with it from the moment it began.

• • •

That first day, they were spooked by how close the soldiers had come to finding me. Abu Rasha said they had to move to the house of Abu Ali, his “brother.” I thought he meant his real brother. Later, I realized this was just a reference to a fellow mujahideen.

Abu Rasha packed my stuff for me, but forgot to put in the toothpaste and shampoo they’d given me the night before. I thought, maybe there’s a reason he didn’t put them in – desperately overanalyzing everything. I asked about them, and he put them in the bag.

Abu Rasha removed my glasses (I’d found the missing lens in the car) and put two black scarves over my head and face so I wouldn’t be able to see where they were taking me. Hanging onto his arm, I stumbled blindly out of the house and into a car, trying to suck fresh air through the suffocating layers of black polyester.

After a short drive we switched cars, and I cowered, motionless in the strange, new back seat. Soon I realized that there were children next to me, and men in the front seat.

A cassette blared a recitation of the Koran and every few minutes the nervous men would mutter “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar,” as we drove through the darkness.

Then one of them said in Arabic, “What are you? What are you?”

A tiny voice next to me replied, “I’m a mujahid,” a holy warrior.

It was a boy – I’d learn that his name was Ismael, and he was 5 years old. Just a child, already indoctrinated.

After some 20 minutes, the car stopped and a woman’s gloved hand grasped mine, guiding me out of the car and into a house. My heart was racing; the adrenaline hadn’t stopped in 24 hours. Barely a day had passed and I was a broken, quivering, fearful shell.

She lifted the scarves. In a rush of air and light I saw her face, smiling and welcoming in a sitting room lined with cushions. Abu Rasha entered, and the woman flipped down a black scarf on her head, covering all but her eyes.

“This is Um Ali and this is Abu Ali,” Abu Rasha told me, smiling. Um is Arabic for mother, Abu is father. But all my captors’ names were fake, as each adopted a nom de guerre in my presence.

I looked to the left to a rotund man with a stubbly salt-and-pepper beard and grandfatherly eyes. He was smiling, too, and looked friendly.

“Do you know Abu Ali?” said Abu Rasha. “Do you know him from yesterday?”

“No,” I said.

I looked at him again – and then I did know who he was. He was the man that held the gun on Adnan, my driver, during my abduction – the fat guy with the beard.

“Oh no,” I thought to myself. This was not OK.

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Coming in the wake of two Fox TV journalists kidnapped in Palestine, this four-part account of life as a hostage courtesy of hands-on captivity virtuoso, journalist Jill Carroll, is harrowing even in the opening quarter.  I’m sure it will only become more intense as each portion is doled out.

For being a westerner in a land where westerners are generally not welcome, Carroll seemed to take every precaution to avoid the circumstances she was caught up in.  She wore traditional clothing when out in public.  She restricted her travel, avoiding the “no-go areas.”  She took a multitude of precautions that many journalists probably forget, or intentionally avoid, yet still she managed to endure and eventually survive her grim ordeal.

(Photograph)

Part 1: The kidnapping

An interview with an Iraqi politician turns deadly.

| Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

 

My chief captor had an idea about how to prod the US government into action: another video.

He said this one would be different, and left.

I turned to the two guards sitting on cushions a few feet away and started to panic. Really, really panic.

“Oh my God, oh my God, they’re going to kill me, this is going to be it. I don’t know when but they’re going to do it,” I thought.

I crawled over to Abu Hassan, the one who seemed more grown-up and sympathetic. His 9mm pistol was by his side, as usual.

“You’re my brother, you’re truly my brother,” I said in Arabic. “Promise me you will use this gun to kill me by your own hand. I don’t want that knife, I don’t want the knife, use the gun.”

I started to cry hysterically. By now I’d been held captive by Iraqi insurgents for six weeks. They’d given me a new hijab, a new name (Aisha), and tried to convert me to Islam. They’d let me play with their children – and repeatedly accused me of working for the CIA.

At night I’d fall asleep and be free in my dreams. Then I’d wake up and my situation would land on me like a weight. Every morning, it was as if I was kidnapped anew.

That particular morning I’d received a visit from Abu Nour, the most senior of my captors. As usual, the distinctive scent of his spicy cologne had announced his presence. As usual, I’d snapped my eyes to the ground to avoid seeing his face.

“We need to make a new video of you,” he’d said, in his high-pitched, yet gravelly voice. “The last video showed you in good condition, and that made the government move slowly.”

The British government had moved quickly, he’d said, after a video had shown hostage Margaret Hassan in bad condition. They wanted to push the US in the same way.

Margaret Hassan! An Irish aid worker married to an Iraqi, she’d been seized in Baghdad in October 2004, while on her way to work. Less than a month later, she was killed.

After the leader left, I sat and stared into the glowing metal of the propane heater, my knees drawn up under my red velveteen dishdasha. I was completely terrified.

If it was going to happen, I wanted it to be quick. So I crawled over to Abu Hassan and begged.

“I don’t want the knife!” I sobbed.

Neither Abu Hassan nor his fellow guard – the blubbery, adolescent Abu Qarrar – really knew what to do about my outburst.

“We’re not going to kill you. Why? What is this?” said Hassan.

His voice was flat and sounded insincere.

“Abu Qarrar, you speak English. You have to tell my family that I love them and that I’m sorry,” I implored.

I sat against the wall of a house whose location I didn’t know, under a window to an outside I couldn’t walk through, and cried and cried.

In Baghdad, Jan. 7, 2006 was a sunny Saturday. For me it promised to be an easy day.

Not that my life in Baghdad was easy. Freelance journalism is a tough business everywhere. But I didn’t want to sit in a cubicle in the US and write, as I had, about the Department of Agriculture food pyramid. Here I was living my dream of being a foreign correspondent – even if that meant sometimes living in a hotel so seedy it was best to buy your own sheets.

First up were some routine interviews of Iraqi politicians trying to form a new government. Three weeks before, the country had chosen its first democratically elected permanent government. But Sunni politicians were dismayed at how few seats they’d won.

Later, I planned to leave my virus-ridden laptop (stashed in the trunk) with a techie friend of my interpreter, Alan Enwiya.

Alan was vital to my newsgathering process. We had been a team for almost two years. We were also friends – it felt as if we were almost siblings – who’d worked through Iraq’s difficult and increasingly dangerous conditions.

In our time together we’d eked out a living freelancing for the Italian news agency ANSA, USA Today, US News & World Report, and now The Christian Science Monitor. We had been threatened by militia members, mobbed after Friday prayers, and seen bullets rain down from passing police vehicles. We’d walked hours through Baghdad soliciting interviews from ordinary Iraqi voters.

During long days in traffic jams, Alan would tell me funny stories about his daughter and infant son, marveling at how fast they were growing. I would tease him that I was a spy for his wife, Fairuz, and would report to her if I caught him looking in the direction of a pretty girl.

The first interview on our list that morning was Adnan al-Dulaimi, a Sunni politician. While there was a handful of what Western journalists considered no-go neighborhoods in Baghdad – his office wasn’t in that category yet. But we had taken our normal security precautions. I was dressed, for example, in a black hijab that hid my hair and Western clothes. We’d been to Mr. Dulaimi’s office several times before without a problem. Our last trip had been two days earlier to set up this interview.

In retrospect, that was a fatal mistake; we had given someone 48 hours to prepare for our return.

Adnan Abbas, the Monitor’s longtime driver – who’d shared many of our harrowing experiences – guided his maroon Toyota sedan along the familiar route to Dulaimi’s office, dropping us off 20 minutes earlier than the scheduled time of 10 a.m.

Inside, Dulaimi’s aides steered us away from the usual waiting room full of men drinking sweet tea in tiny glasses, and into an adjoining room where we were alone. Alan and I noticed the strangeness of this move at the same moment.

“Well, it’s better,” Alan said. “You’re a woman and there are a lot of men in there.”

The minutes passed and aides walked through the room chatting on cellphones. I understood through my rudimentary Arabic that they were telling various people that a reporter was waiting to see Dulaimi. But a little after 10 a.m. the same aide who had made the appointment for us approached us.

“Sorry, Dr. Dulaimi has a press conference right now,” the aide said. “He can’t talk to you. Can you come back at 12?”

I wondered why I hadn’t heard about the press conference before now.

We agreed to come back later and stepped out into the bright sunny morning where Adnan was waiting for us.

As we walked to the car, Alan reminded me that we needed to call ahead to make sure our next interview was still on. He climbed into the front, and I handed him my phone from the back seat, my usual place. He began shouting into the phone, trying to make himself heard over Baghdad’s overloaded, spotty cellphone network.

Adnan had begun to pull away, but suddenly a large blue truck with red and yellow trim backed out of a driveway in front of us, completely blocking the road. Several men were standing around it, motioning to help it back out.

But in an instant they turned, trained pistols on us, and briskly approached the car.

Adnan hit the brakes, and he and Alan put their hands up. It was a routine we had become familiar with in Baghdad, where private security details often brandish weapons to clear a path for their clients.

But unlike the previous times, the men didn’t lower their weapons – and they kept advancing. The man closest to the car, a rotund person with salt-and-pepper stubble, had his gun aimed right through the windshield at Adnan.

My eyes were glued to him. I was confused about why he didn’t lower his pistol. At the same time Adnan and Alan opened their doors and began to get out of the car.

The gunmen ran at us. A whisper exploded from me into a scream, “No, no, NO!” as I tried to get out. The door closed on my right ankle as someone shoved me back in, pushing so hard that the right lens of my glasses popped out. Through the crack in the door – before the intruder slammed it – I saw the last moment of Alan’s life.

Adnan was gone. The rotund man was in the driver’s seat now. Other men jumped in sandwiching me between them. We sped away, out onto the main road, then turned right.

“Jihad! Jihad! Jihad!” my abductors shouted, excited and joyful. “Jihad! Jihad!”

(P.G.) The taking of Jill Carroll off a Baghdad street on Jan. 7, 2006, created many hostages, of whom Jill herself was simply the central one, and the most endangered.

For her family and many friends and colleagues, normal life ended in the hours and days to come, as they heard what had happened. Henceforth, there would be worry, sometimes fear, and new routines that had one aim: free Jill.

Their solace was action. The first thing her father Jim Carroll did that black Saturday morning was fire up his computer to see what he could learn, while Mary Beth, her mother, contacted family members. Sister Katie, who worked for an international development consulting company, began calling every number she knew in the Middle East.

In Boston before the sun rose, the Monitor assembled an ad hoc Team Jill – Marshall Ingwerson, the managing editor; David Scott, the foreign editor; and Amelia Newcomb, the deputy foreign editor. Richard Bergenheim was in Mexico taking his first vacation since becoming the paper’s editor. He caught the next flight back.

(Graphic)

For the next 82 days, they met every few hours, sometimes starting at 5:30 a.m. and often finishing the day at 10 or 11 p.m. with a conference call with Baghdad. Some of these editors had dealt before with the stress and emotion over the kidnapping – and even murder – of foreign correspondents filing for the paper. But none were truly prepared for what lay ahead.

Jill herself, isolated by Islamist insurgents, did not envision such rallies to her cause. In the weeks to come she sometimes would avoid thinking about her family, because it made her sad; when she did, she imagined them apprehensive, waiting for some sort of word from the US government. As for the Monitor, well, she was just a freelancer, and it wasn’t a rich paper. She figured that following her kidnapping and the murder of her interpreter, its rotating Baghdad staff would have fled Iraq.

She was wrong.

***

(J.C.) In the first minutes after my abduction, my captors peppered me with questions in Arabic. I played dumb, fearful they would think I understood too much and kill me.

They quickly drove Adnan’s Toyota onto the highways of western Baghdad and surrounding farmlands, going in circles, apparently to kill time. Their “success” was granted by God, they believed, and they issued thanks repeatedly. “Allah Akbar” they said, “God is greatest.”

“They’re going to take me out into a field and kill me,” I thought as we bumped down rural back roads.

They seemed to read my thoughts, perplexed that I was afraid amidst their jubilation.

“Why you worried?” they asked in stilted English. “No, no, no, [this is] jihad! [We are] Iraqi, Iraqi mujahideen! Why you worried?”

Sunni Muslim insurgents were – still are – the most active hostage-takers in Iraq. Many were allied to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who led Al Qaeda in Iraq until he was killed by a US airstrike June 7.

But the outside world didn’t know much about these groups. These weren’t people who held press conferences or articulated their grievances through the political process.

They were a powerful force in Iraq, but they were like shadows behind a curtain. We could see broad outlines, but were left to guess at who they really were, how they think, and what motivates them.

Alan and I had been focusing for several months on piecing together a clear picture of Iraq’s Sunni community. Their tacit support for the insurgency allowed it to operate; understanding them was key to understanding the forces violently splitting the country.

Now I was to gain the insight we had so long sought. At such a price to Alan, I have never been so desperate for ignorance.

(P.G.) On the morning of Jan. 7, the phone rang in Monitor staff writer Scott Peterson‘s Istanbul home just as he was stepping out the door, headed to the airport. His wife, Alex, picked up, and gave the caller Scott’s cellphone number. If he stopped now, he might miss his flight to eastern Turkey, where he was traveling to report a story on bird flu. Better to talk in the taxi, on the way.

Lean and intense, Mr. Peterson is a veteran foreign correspondent, the sort of person who wears a scarf as a memento of an attack by a poisonous snake in Africa. He’s such a dedicated rock climber that he’s built a climbing wall within the Monitor’s small Baghdad apartment, where he spends four to six weeks at a time on assignment, to help himself stay physically and mentally sharp.

Five minutes down the road, the call came through. It was a British security firm that advises many journalists in Iraq. After a brief conversation, Peterson asked his driver to turn around. He called the foreign editor to inform him of his new destination – Iraq.

Sometime that day, Peterson, a habitual notetaker, wrote “Jill Abducted in Baghdad” in one of the small blue books he uses to document his life.

Underneath that line, in smaller letters, he wrote one word: “prayers.”

(Photograph) FIRST REACTION: The notebook of Scott Peterson. The Christian Science Monitor staff writer in a taxi in Istanbul when he heard the news of his colleague’s abduction. He wrote “Jill abducted in Baghdad” and, underneath, “prayers”.
JOHN NORDELL – STAFF

***

(J.C.) The room was small, with furniture that was fancy by Iraqi standards – two couches and an overstuffed chair covered in dark velvet with gold trim. The TV and its satellite box were in the corner.

Abu Rasha – a big man whom I would come to see as an organizer of my guards – lay down on one of the sofas. His wife and one of his children sat next to him on a chair.

Then Abu Rasha handed me the remote. “Whatever you want,” he said.

How do you channel surf with the mujahideen? I asked myself that question as I flipped from one show to another, trying to act casual. Politics was out. News was out. Anything that might show even a flash of skin was out.

Finally, I found Channel 1 from Dubai, and Oprah was on. OK, good, Oprah, I thought. No naked women, no whatever, she’s not in hijab, but it’s OK.

The show was about people who had had really bad things happen to them, and had survived, and had hope. One woman came on who had been a model in the ’70s and had breast cancer, and now she’s a famous photographer. It really had an impact on me. Oprah talked about how people get through these things, and I thought, well, this is sort of prophetic, maybe.

I had only been in captivity a few hours. This house, big, with two stories, was the second place I’d been taken.

The first had been a tiny, three-room house among tall crops on Baghdad’s western outskirts. It was a poor place, built of cinder blocks. My captors gave me a new set of clothes, and I changed in the bathroom while the stern-faced woman of the house looked on.

They took pains to explain they wouldn’t take the $100 in cash they’d found in my pockets.

“When you return to America, this with you,” said one, waving the $100 bill.

Who were these people? Kidnapping was justified but taking money was not? And less than an hour after killing Alan to kidnap me, they seemed to be saying they would eventually let me go.

Then we drove to the second house, which appeared to be the home of one of the kidnappers, who’d given his name as Abu Rasha.

They took me upstairs to the master bedroom. Within a few minutes an interpreter arrived, and an interrogation began.

They wanted to know my name, the name of my newspaper, my religion, how much my computer was worth, did it have a device to signal the government or military, if I or anyone in my family drank alcohol, how many American reporters were in Baghdad, did I know reporters from other countries, and myriad other questions.

Then, in a slightly gravelly voice, the interpreter explained the situation.

“You are our sister. We have no problem with you. Our problem is with your government. We just need to keep you for some time. We want women freed from Abu Ghraib prison. Maybe four or five women. We want to ask your government for this,” the interpreter said. (At the time, it was reported that 10 Iraqi women were among 14,000 Iraqis being held by coalition forces on suspicion of insurgent activity.)

“You are to stay in this room. And this window, don’t put one hand on this window,” he continued. “I have a place underground. It is very dark and small, and cold, and if you put one hand on this window, we will put you there. Some of my friends said we should put you there, but I said, ‘No she is a woman.’ Women are very important in Islam.”

After that they fed me from a platter of chicken and rice that would have been fit for an honored guest. And I was invited downstairs to watch television with Abu Rasha’s family.

That’s when we’d watched Oprah. Afterward, Abu Rasha asked me what I liked to eat for breakfast, and what time I had it. It was part of this pattern – they all seemed concerned that I think they were good, or at least that they were treating me well.

It sounds hospitable. But in my mind every second was a test – the choice of food, TV program, everything – and they would kill me if I gave the wrong answer.

Eventually I told them I wanted to sleep, and they led me upstairs. I lay in bed, on the far side away from the window. The clock was ticking loudly, and then it started to rain. I love rain, and I thought, oh, maybe this is a good sign.

But I’d been performing all day, holding in my emotions, and with darkness they came flooding back.

“Oh my God. They killed Alan.” A tide of emotion was racing toward me. It was going to drown me or send me flinging myself against the walls in anger and screams. I had to stop it.

“I cannot grieve now. I cannot do this now. I have to put it away,” I thought.

I looked up into the darkness of the ceiling toward Alan. “I’m sorry,” I told him. “I’ll take care of you later.” I felt disloyal. I thought to survive, I had to push aside the memory of his brutal murder. But I knew that at some point I’d have to come to terms with the guilt I felt for his death.

As night fell, I wondered if my friends had heard. I knew that by this point Alan’s family, his wife, Fairuz, was realizing the worst.

“Well, now they must know,” I thought. “It’s dark. He hasn’t come home. They must be screaming. Fairuz must be screaming.”

  ***

How to help

(Photograph)
HOWARD LAFRANCHI/THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Alan Enwiya is one of nearly 100 journalists and media assistants killed in Iraq since March 2003. Alan (left side of photo) is survived by his wife, Fairuz, his two children, Martin and Mary Ann, and his parents.

In response to readers, the Monitor has set up a fund to help support Alan’s family and to enable them to start a new life in the US, where they have relatives.

Donations may be sent to:

The Alan Enwiya Fund
c/o The Christian Science Monitor
One Norway Street
Boston, MA 02115

Donations can also be made online here.

 

 

 

 

 

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The image “https://i1.wp.com/www.iran-press-service.com/articles/hezbollah_celebrate_ap.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

A comment from a fellow WordPress poster on my piece, Qana Bombing: Where are the 9/11 Conspiracy Nuts Now? caused me to bristle a bit when said poster attempted to indicate that Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization. After responding to his comment on that blog entry, I was then promted to find this list which details most of the higher profile terrorist acts committed by Hezbollah since May of 2000, when Israel unilaterally withdrew from southern Lebanon.

24 Jul 2006 – Hezbollah fired more than 70 Katyusha rockets into Israel, several of which landed in Nahariya, Safed, and Kiryat Shmona. Medics treated at least 49 people who were lightly to moderately wounded. More than 2200 rockets have been fired at Israeli cities since July 12, killing 17 Israelis, all of them civilians. 20 Israeli soldiers were killed in other incidents.

23 Jul 2006 – Shimon Glickblich, 60, of Haifa was killed Sunday morning (11:00) while driving his car in Haifa. Habib Isa Awad, 48, of Iblin, was killed while working in the carpentry shop in Kiryat Ata. Another 12 were wounded in the morning barrage in Haifa, and more later in the day as over 90 rockets were fired at Haifa, Akko, Kiryat Shmona, and elsewhere in northern Israel.

20 Jul 2006 – Five IDF soldiers were killed and five wounded in continuing exchanges of fire in the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras, near Avivim, where two soldiers were killed on Wednesday. The body of the fifth soldier, St.-Sgt. Yonatan (Sergei) Vlasyuk, 21, of Kibbutz Lahav was retrieved on July 22. At 16, Yonatan immigrated alone to Israel through the Jewish Agency’s “Na’aleh” program. He was adopted by Dalia Gal, a member of Kibbutz Lahav in the Negev. An IDF officer was killed and three soldiers were wounded as two Apache (Cobra) combat helicopters on their way to Lebanon to assist IDF forces operating against Hezbollah terrorists near Avivim collided and then crashed south of Kiryat Shmona.

19 Jul 2006 – St.-Sgt. Yonatan Hadasi, 21, of Kibbutz Merhavia and St.-Sgt. Yotam Gilboa, 21, of Kibbutz Maoz Haim were killed and nine soldiers were wounded in exchanges of fire between IDF and Hezbollah in south Lebanon, near Moshav Avivim. The Israeli force had crossed the border to destroy the Hezbollah rocket-launching position at the former IDF outpost of Shaked. Rabia Abed Taluzi (3) and his brother Mahmoud (7) who were playing soccer outside their house were killed and dozens were wounded in two Katyusha rocket attacks on the Israeli Arab city of Nazareth.

18 Jul 2006 – Andrei Zelinksy, 36, was killed Tuesday evening in Nahariya outside a bomb shelter. Though he managed to save his family by rushing them into the shelter, he returned home to get a blanket for his daughter and was killed. Some 130 rockets were fired at the north on Tuesday, 100 of them within one hour and a half – also landing in the Haifa area, Karmiel, Tiberias, Safed, Maalot and Rosh Pina. About 60 people injured were evacuated to hospitals in Safed and Nahariya.

17 Jul 2006 – Over 50 rockets were fired towards the eastern and upper Galilee on Monday night. A Katyusha rocket hit the external wall of the Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Safed, causing damage to infrastructure; five patients, two doctors and two other hospital employees were injured. Earlier, 11 people were wounded in Haifa when a 3-story apartment building was hit by missile. The Israel Air Force destroyed at least ten long-range Iranian-made missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv, by targeting a Hezbollah truck carrying the missiles before they could be launched. To date, missiles have been fired up to 40 kilometers into Israel.

16 Jul 2006 – Eight killed, 50 wounded in Hezbollah rocket attack on Haifa – Rockets began falling on the Haifa area shortly after 9:00 a.m. Eight employees of Israel Railways at the Haifa train depot were killed in a direct hit by a Fajar missile made in Syria. A total of over 50 people were wounded in Haifa and the Haifa Bay area.

15 Jul 2006 – Katyusha rockets landed for the first time in Tiberias, located 35 kilometers from the Lebanese border on the Sea of Galilee, as well as in nearby communities.

14 Jul 2006 – Shortly after 8:30 p.m. =46riday night an Israeli navy ship was severely damaged by an Iran-manufactured missile fired by Hezbollah. Four IDF soldiers were killed: Staff Sgt. Tal Amgar, 21, of Ashdod; Yaniv Hershkovitz, 21, of Haifa; Shai Atias, 19, ofRishon Lezion; and Dov Steinshuss, 37, of Karmiel. Omer Pesachov, 7, of Nahariya, and his grandmother Yehudit Itzkovitch, 58, of Moshav Meron were killed by a Katyusha rocket in Meron early Friday evening. Roni, Omer’s older sister, was badly wounded, and the grandfather, Naftali, was lightly hurt. The family had fled the Katyushas in Nahariya to spend a quiet weekend with their grandparents.

13 Jul 2006 – Monica Seidman (Lehrer), 40, of Nahariya was killed in her home by a Katyusha rocket Thursday morning. In the evening, Nitzan Roseban, 33, was killed in Safed by a direct rocket hit. On Thursday evening Katyushas landed in Haifa.

12 Jul 2006 – Hezbollah terrorists infiltrated into Israeli territory and attacked two IDF armored jeeps patrolling the border with Lebanon, killing three soldiers and kidnapping two. Ground forces entered Lebanon in the area of the attack. A large explosive device was detonated underneath an Israeli tank, killing all four of the tank crew. An eighth soldier was killed when IDF troops entered Lebanon to try to retrieve the bodies of the tank crew. Throughout the day, Hezbollah terror organization fired Katyusha rockets and mortar shells at Israel’s northern borders’ communities and IDF posts.

27 May 2006 – An IDF soldier was wounded when Katyushas were fired at an army base at Mt. Meron in the upper Galilee.

27 Dec 2005 – A branch of a Palestinian organization connected to Al-Qaida fired 6 Katyushas, damaging a house in Kiryat Shmona and a house in Metulla. In response, the IAF attacked a training base of the Popular Front, south of Beirut.

21 Nov 2005 – An attempt to kidnap an IDF soldier was foiled when paratroopers patrolling near Rajar village discerned a Hezbollah unit approaching. Private David Markovitz opened fire, killing all four. In a heavy attack of mortars and Katyusha rockets that ensued, nine soldiers and and two civilians were injured.

29 Jun 2005 – More than 20 mortars were fired from across the border. Cpl. Uzi Peretz of the Golani Brigade was killed and four soldiers wounded, including the unit’s doctor. Fire was exchanged and helicopters and planes attacked five Hezbollah outposts in the Reches Ramim area.

24 Apr 2005 – Several explosive devices exploded near the Lebanese-Israeli border, in the Mount Dov area. Officials believe the devices were planted by Hezbollah, but this was not confirmed. No injuries were reported in the explosions.

7 Apr 2005 – Two Israeli-Arabs from the village of Rajar near the Israel-Lebanon border were kidnapped by Hezbollah operatives and held in captivity for four days. The men, identified as Muki Ben-Jamal and Nuef Maharj Ben-Ali, said they were interrogated by their captors who wanted information on Israel. They were later released. Israeli officials did not believe that any security information had been compromised.

9 Jan 2005 – An explosive device was detonated against an IDF patrol at Nahal Sion. One Israeli soldier was killed, and a UN officer was killed.

20 Jul 2004 – Hezbollah sniper fired at an IDF post in the western sector of the Israeli-Lebanese border. Two IDF soldiers were killed.

7 May 2004 – Fire in the Mt. Dov sector. IDF soldier Dennis Leminov was killed, and two other soldiers were severely wounded. The IDF returned fire.

19 Jan 2004 – An anti-tank missile was fired at IDF D9 while neutralizing explosive charges near Zari’t. An IDF soldier, Yan Rotzenski, was killed and another soldier was severely wounded.

6 Oct 2003 – Staff Sgt. David Solomonov was killed when Hezbollah fired at an IDF force south of the =46atma Gate in the eastern sector. In addition, the Hezbollah fired missiles and rockets at an IDF post in the Reches Ramim area.

10 Aug 2003 – Haviv Dadon, 16, of Shlomi, was struck in the chest and killed by shrapnel from an anti-aircraft shell fired by Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon. Four others were wounded.

20 Jul 2003 – Hezbollah snipers fired on an Israeli outpost near Chetula, killing two Israeli soldiers. The IDF retaliated with tank fire directed at a Hezbollah position, killing one operative manning the post. That night, there were multiple Israeli flights over Lebanon, two of which generated powerful sonic booms over Beirut.

7 May 2003 – Hezbollah attacked IDF positions in the Sheba’ farms with heavy rocket, mortar, and small arms fire. One Israeli soldier was killed and five others were wounded in the attack. Lebanese authorities asserted that the Hezbollah firing had been preceded by an Israeli army foot patrol crossing the Blue Line.

5 May 2003 – A cycle of armed exchanges across the Blue Line began. Israel carried out more than 20 air sorties over the country. Subsequently, Hezbollah fired several anti-aircraft rounds with shrapnel landing inside Israel.

22 Mar 2003 – Hezbollah fired rockets and mortars at Israeli army positions in the Sheba’ farms and adjacent areas. This attack followed eight incursions into Lebanese airspace by Israeli aircraft.

6 Jan 2003 – Hezbollah fired anti aircraft shells in the vicinity of Birait in the western sector of the Lebanese border. No one was hurt and no damage was caused.

29 Aug 2002 – Fire at an IDF post in the Mt. Dov sector. IDF soldier Ofer Misali was killed, and two other soldiers were lightly wounded.

12 Mar 2002 – Infiltration: In a shooting attack on the Shlomi- Metzuba route. Six Israelis civilians were killed, among them IDF officer Lt. German Rojkov.

7 Aug 2001 – Two houses belonging to senior members of the former Israeli-allied South Lebanon Army militia were blown up using explosive devices. One of the houses belonged to Robin Abboud; the other to Samir Raslan. Hezbollah is suspected.

28 Apr 2001 – A 60 year-old Israeli man was found stabbed to death in Kfar Ba’aneh, near Carmiel in Galilee. The terrorists responsible for the attack were apprehended in July. Six members of a Hezbollah-linked Palestinian terrorist cell responsible for the murder were arrested in July. The murder was the initiation rite of the organization.

14 Apr 2001 – Fire at an IDF post in the Mt. Dov sector. IDF soldier Elad Litvak was killed.

1 Apr 2001 – A 42 year-old Israeli woman was stabbed to death in Haifa. Her murder was the initiation rite of a terrorist cell, whose members were apprehended in July. Six members of a Hezbollah-linked Palestinian terrorist cell responsible for the murder, originally thought to be criminally motivated, were arrested in July. The murder was the initiation rite of one of the terrorists into the organization.

16 Feb 2001– Fire at an IDF convoy on Mt. Dov. IDF soldier Elad Shneor was killed, and three other soldiers were wounded.

26 Nov 2000 – A charge was detonated near an IDF convoy. IDF soldier Khalil Taher was killed and two other soldiers were wounded.

7 Oct 2000 – Kidnapping: Three IDF soldiers: Adi Avitan, Omer Soued and Binyamin Avraham were kidnapped by the Hezbollah from the Mt. Dov sector.

Again, this is post May 2000, and it doesn’t take into account the plothora of attacks that Hezbollah have perpetrated in the past, such as the U.S. Marine Barracks bombing in 1983 that killed 241 Americans, and the coinciding attack on the French military that killed nearly 60. Additionally, countless jetliner hijackings stood as one of the staples of Hezbollah terrorism since their organization came into being in the early 1980’s.

Here is another timeline that goes into the beginnings of Hezbollah’s terrorist activities.

1982: Israel invades Lebanon to drive out the PLO’s terrorist army, which had frequently attacked Israel from its informal “state-within-a-state” in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah, a Shiite group inspired by the teachings and revolution of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, is created with the assistance of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The group is called Hezbollah–or “party of God”– after initially taking responsibility for attacks under the name “Islamic Jihad.” (Not to be confused with the Palestinian terror organization Islamic Jihad.)

July 19, 1982: The president of the American University in Beirut, Davis S. Dodge, is kidnapped. Hezbollah is believed to be behind this and most of the other 30 Westerners kidnapped over the next ten years.

April 18, 1983: Hezbollah attacks the U.S. embassy in Beirut with a car bomb, killing 63 people, 17 of whom were American citizens.

Oct. 23, 1983: The group attacks U.S. Marine barracks with a truck bomb, killing 241 American military personnel stationed in Beirut as part of a peace-keeping force. A separate attack against the French military compound in Beirut kills 58.

Sept. 20, 1984: The group attacks the U.S. embassy annex in Beirut with a car bomb, killing 2 Americans and 22 others.

March 16, 1984: William F. Buckley, a CIA operative working at the U.S. embassy in Beirut, is kidnapped and later murdered.

April 12, 1984: Hezbollah attacks a restaurant near the U.S. Air Force Base in Torrejon, Spain. The bombing kills eighteen U.S. servicemen and injures 83 people.

Dec. 4, 1984: Hezbollah terrorists hijack a Kuwait Airlines plane. Four passengers are murdered, including two Americans.

Feb. 16, 1985: Hezbollah publicizes its manifesto. It notes that the group’s struggle will continue until Israel is destroyed and rejects any cease-fire or peace treaty with Israel. The document also attacks the U.S. and France.

June 14, 1985: Hezbollah terrorists hijack TWA flight 847. The hijackers severely beat Passenger Robert Stethem, a U.S. Navy diver, before killing him and dumping his body onto the tarmac at the Beirut airport. Other passengers are held as hostages before being released on June 30.

Dec. 31, 1986: Under the alias Organization of the Oppressed on Earth, Hezbollah announces it had kidnapped and murdered three Lebanese Jews. The organization previously had taken responsibility for killing four other Jews since 1984.

Feb. 17, 1988: The group kidnaps Col. William Higgins, a U.S. Marine serving with a United Nations truce monitoring group in Lebanon, and later murders him.

Oct. 22, 1989: Members of the dissolved Lebanese parliament ratify the Taif Agreement. Although the agreement calls for the “disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias,” Hezbollah remains active.

Feb. 16, 1992: Sayyad Hassan Nasrallah takes over Hezbollah after Israel kills the group’s leader, Abbas Musawi.

March 17, 1992: With the help of Iranian intelligence, Hezbollah bombs the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 and injuring over 200.

July 18, 1994: Hezbollah bombs the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires–again with Iranian help–killing 86 and injuring over 200.

Nov. 28, 1995: Hezbollah bombards towns in northern Israel with volleys of Katyusha rockets in one of the group’s numerous attacks on Israeli civilians.

March 30, 1996: Hezbollah fires 28 Katyusha rockets into northern Israeli towns. A week later, the group fires 16 rockets, injuring 36 Israelis. Israel responds with a major offensive, known as the “Grapes of Wrath” operation, to stop Hezbollah rocket fire.

Aug. 19, 1997: Hezbollah opens fire on northern Israel with dozens of rockets in one of the group’s numerous attacks on Israeli civilians.

October 1997: The United States lists Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Dec. 28, 1998: Hezbollah opens fire on northern Israel with dozens of rockets in one of the group’s numerous attacks on Israeli civilians.

May 17, 1999: Hezbollah opens fire on northern Israel with dozens of rockets in one of the group’s numerous attacks on Israeli civilians.

June 24, 1999: Hezbollah opens fire on northern Israel, killing 2.

May 23, 2000: Israel withdraws all troops from Lebanon after 18 years patrolling the “security zone,” a strip of land in the south of the country. The security zone was set up to prevent attacks on northern Israel.

June 2000: United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan certifies Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon. Shortly thereafter, the U.N. Security Council endorses Annan’s report. Hezbollah nonetheless alleges Israel occupies Lebanon, claiming the small Shebba Farms area Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 war as Lebanese territory.

Oct. 7, 2000: Hezbollah attacks an Israel military post and raids Israel, kidnapping three Israeli soldiers. The soldiers are later assumed dead. In mid-October, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah announces the group has also kidnapped an Israeli businessman. In 2004, Israel frees over 400 Arab prisoners in exchange for the business man and the bodies of the three soldiers.

March 1, 2001: The British government adds Hezbollah’s “military wing” to its list of outlawed terrorist organizations.

April 9, 2002: Hezbollah launches Katyushas into northern Israeli town. This assault comes amidst almost daily Hezbollah attacks against Israeli troops in Shebba farms.

Dec. 11, 2002: Canada lists Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Aug. 10, 2003: Hezbollah shells kills 16-year-old Israeli boy, wound others.

June 5, 2003: Australia lists Hezbollah’s “military wing” as a terrorist organization.

Sept. 2, 2004: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 calls for “the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias,” a reference to Hezbollah.

December 2004: Both the United States and France ban Hezbollah’s satellite television network, Al Manar. A U.S. State Department spokesman notes the channel “preaches violence and hatred.”

March 10, 2005: The European Parliament overwhelmingly passes a resolution stating: “Parliament considers that clear evidence exists of terrorist activities by Hezbollah. The (EU) Council should take all necessary steps to curtail them.” The European Union nonetheless refrains from placing the group on its list of terror organizations.

July 12, 2006: Hezbollah attacks Israel with Katyushas, crosses the border and kidnaps two Israeli soldiers. Three Israeli soldiers are killed in the initial attack. Five more soldiers are killed as Israel launches operation to rescue the soldiers and push Hezbollah from its border. Hezbollah launches rockets into towns across northern Israel.

Yes, they are a terrorist organizaiton, and not a group of freedom fighters as some have deluded themselves into believing.

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It’s a shame that United States border patrol agents are nothing more than glorified security guards who have seemed to garner a greater amount of disdain than normal as of late simply for trying to do their jobs–prevent illegal immigration from our southern border into this country. And while illegal immigration has been a controversial topic for decades, which always baffles me, the flames of dissention between the two clearly defined sides have flared to epic proportions throughout the previous year, which of course effects BP agents via a higher profile–the more aware of something one may become, the more cognizant one is of its benefits and deficits.

Border agents are only as beneficial as the federal government allows, and right now they’re struggling daily, with very little support from said government, to accomplish the assignment they’ve been tasked with. While BP agents were given broader powers post 9/11, for the obvious reasons of terrorist infiltration across the border, their hands are still figuratively tied as law enforcers.

While I believe it’s fairly evident that the men in question in the article below, Border patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, may not have acted according to procedure during and after their altercation with well-known drug trafficker and Mexican citizen Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, the fact that they’re facing 20 years each in prison for merely trying to do their jobs reveals a great deal, at least to me, what the federal government thinks about illegal immigration.

And while these two BP agents are facing a great deal of prison time, Aldrete-Davilla, after having been shot in the buttocks by Ignacio, an eight year Naval reserve man and former nominee for Border Patrol Agent of the year, received first class medical treatment for his ass-wound at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas. You know what that means? American citizens paid to sew up the newly made asshole in drug trafficker, and Mexican citizen, Aldrete-Davila. In other words, fuck American citizens trying to do their jobs and keep the United States safe. Let’s reward a known drug runner and citizen of another country for breaking our laws.

You know what else irritates me? I was born in Willcox, AZ.
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Breaking the silence
Convicted border agent tells his story

By Sara A. Carter, Staff Writer

EL PASO, Texas – Border Patrol Agent Ignacio Ramos could hear his heart racing. He could feel the dry, hot dust burning against his skin as he chased a drug trafficker trying to flee back into Mexico.

Ramos’ fellow agent, Jose Alonso Compean, was lying on the ground behind him, banged up and bloody from a scuffle with the much-bigger smuggler moments earlier.

Suddenly the smuggler turned toward the pursuing Ramos, gun in hand. Ramos, his own weapon already drawn, shot at him, though the man was able to flee into the brush and escape the agents.

Now, nearly 18 months after that violent encounter, Ramos and Compean are facing 20 years in federal prison for their actions.

Why?

According to the U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted the agents, the man they were chasing didn’t actually have a gun, shooting him in the back violated his civil rights, the agents didn’t know for a fact that he was a drug smuggler, and they broke Border Patrol rules about discharging their weapons and preserving a crime scene.

Even more broadly, Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Kanof said, Ramos and Compean had no business chasing someone in the first place.

“It is a violation of Border Patrol regulations to go after someone who is fleeing,” she said. “The Border Patrol pursuit policy prohibits the pursuit of someone.”

Her arguments, along with testimony from other agents on the scene and that of the smuggler himself, swayed a jury. It was a crushing blow to Compean and Ramos, both of whom had pursued suspects along the border as a regular part of their job.

It also appears to fly in the face of the Border Patrol’s own edicts, which include “detouring illegal entries through improved enforcement” and “apprehending and detouring smugglers of humans, drugs and other contraband.”

The smuggler was given full immunity to testify against the agents and complete medical care at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, in El Paso.

Neither Ramos nor Compean had granted an interview in the almost 18 months since the shooting. Compean’s attorneys have told him to not speak to anyone about the case.

But Ramos and his family say they no longer can be silent.

“They don’t throw this many charges at guys they’ve caught with over 2,000 pounds of marijuana,” Ramos said. “There’s murderers and child rapists that are looking at less time than me.

“I am not guilty. I did not do what they’re accusing me of.”

SPEAKING OUT
Ramos, 37, and Compean, 28, are set to be sentenced Aug. 22 for shooting Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, a Mexican citizen, on Feb. 17, 2005, in the small Texas town of Fabens, about 40 miles south east of El Paso.

A Texas jury convicted the pair of assault with serious bodily injury; assault with a deadly weapon; discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence; and a civil rights violation. Compean and Ramos also were convicted of four counts and two counts, respectively, of obstruction of justice for not reporting that their weapons had been fired.

The jury acquitted both men of assault with intent to commit murder.

But the conviction for discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence requires a minimum 10-year prison sentence. The sentences for the other convictions vary.

On July 25, the El Paso U.S. Probation Office recommended to Judge Kathleen Cardone that each man get 20 years.

Ramos, an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Naval Reserve and a former nominee for Border Patrol Agent of the Year, now has but one thing on his mind: What will happen to his wife and three young sons if he spends the next two decades in prison?

“It’s (with) a leap of faith and my devotion to God that me and my family will make it through this,” Ramos said as he looked at his wife, Monica, during an exclusive interview with the Daily Bulletin this past month in El Paso.

Two things were clear throughout the interview: Ramos is convinced he was simply doing his job when Aldrete-Davila was shot, and he is perplexed as to why he and his partner are being punished so severely.

IGNACIO’S STORY
Here’s Ramos’ version of what happened that day:

On Feb. 17, 2005, Compean was monitoring the south side of a levee road near the Rio Grande on the U.S.-Mexico border in Fabens when he spotted a suspicious van driving down the north end of the road. He called for backup.

Ramos headed to Fabens, where he thought he could intercept the van at one of only two roads leading in and out of the small town.

Another agent was already following the van — with Aldrete-Davila at the wheel — when Ramos arrived.

Ramos and the other agent followed the van through the center of town until it turned back toward the Rio Grande, which marks the border between Mexico and the United States. Aldrete-Davila, unable to outrun the agents, stopped his van on a levee, got out and started running. Compean was waiting for him on the other side of the levee.

“We both yelled out for him to stop, but he wouldn’t stop, and he just kept running,” Ramos said.

Aldrete-Davila made his way through a canal, and Ramos could hear Compean yelling for Aldrete-Davila to stop, he said.

“At some point during the time where I’m crossing the canal, I hear shots being fired,” Ramos said. “Later, I see Compean on the ground, but I keep running after the smuggler.”

Through the thick dust, Ramos watched as Aldrete-Davila turned toward him, pointing what appeared to be a gun.

“I shot,” he said. “But I didn’t think he was hit, because he kept running into the brush and then disappeared into it. Later, we all watched as he jumped into a van waiting for him. He seemed fine. It didn’t look like he had been hit at all.”

Seven other agents were on the scene by that time. Compean had already picked up his shell casings. Ramos did not, though he failed to report the shooting.

“The supervisors knew that shots were fired,” Ramos said. “Since nobody was injured or hurt, we didn’t file the report. That’s the only thing I would’ve done different.”

The van later was found to have about 800 pounds of marijuana inside.

A DIFFERENT TAKE
The version of events presented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office during the agents’ trial differed markedly from Ramos’.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it is a violation of someone’s Fourth Amendment rights to shoot them in the back while fleeing if you don’t know who they are and/or if you don’t know they have a weapon,” said Kanof, the assistant U.S. attorney.

Ramos testified during the trial that he saw Aldrete-Davila with something “shiny” in his hand, she said, and though Ramos told the Daily Bulletin he thought it was a gun, he couldn’t be sure, she said.

Moreover, the agents “did not know who this individual was or what he had in the van,” Kanof said. “They just decided or guessed.”

She then reiterated her contention that pursuing Aldrete-Davila or anyone else fleeing border agents is not part of the Border Patrol’s job.

“Agents are not allowed to pursue. In order to exceed the speed limit, you have to get supervisor approval, and they did not,” she said.

The prosecutor also said the men destroyed the crime scene when Compean picked up his shell casings and attempted to cover up their actions by not reporting they’d fired their weapons.

PUZZLING ARGUMENT
Ramos said his pursuit of Aldrete-Davila was nothing different from what he’s done in the past 10 years as a Border Patrol agent.

“How are we supposed to follow the Border Patrol strategy of apprehending terrorists or drug smugglers if we are not supposed to pursue fleeing people?” he continued. “Everybody who’s breaking the law flees from us. What are we supposed to do? Do they want us to catch them or not?”

Ramos also said that both supervisors who were at the scene knew shots had been fired but did not file reports.

“You need to tell a supervisor because you can’t assume that a supervisor knows about it,” Kanof countered. “You have to report any discharge of a firearm.”

Mary Stillinger, Ramos’ attorney, and Maria Ramirez, Compean’s attorney, said during the trial that every other Border Patrol agent at the scene also failed to report shots had been fired.

“Every single witness has a reason to lie,” Ramirez said, referring to the immunity granted to Aldrete-Davila and the other agents in exchange for testifying against Ramos and Compean.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Table of Offenses and Penalties, failure to report that a weapon has been fired in the line of duty is punishable by a five-day suspension.

Ramos also is puzzled as to why, more than two weeks after the shooting, a Department of Homeland Security investigator — acting on a tip from a Border Patrol agent in Arizona — tracked down Aldrete-Davila in Mexico, offering him immunity if he testified against the agents who shot at him.

Why the agent tipped Homeland Security to the smuggler’s whereabouts is partly explained in a confidential Homeland Security memo obtained by the Daily Bulletin. Why the department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in El Paso pursued the matter so aggressively is less clear.

“Osbaldo (Aldrete-Davila) had told (Border Patrol agent) Rene Sanchez that his friends had told him they should put together a hunting party and go shoot some BP agents in revenge for them shooting Osbaldo,” reads a memo written by Christopher Sanchez, an investigator with the department’s Office of Inspector General. “Osbaldo advised Rene Sanchez that he told his friends he was not interested in going after the BP agents and getting in more trouble.”

Neither Rene Sanchez nor Christopher Sanchez could be reached for comment. Mike Friels, a spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection branch of the Department of Homeland Security, said he could not comment on the case, citing pending litigation.

BEHIND THE SCENES
In the same Homeland Security memo, Christopher Sanchez outlines how the investigation into Ramos and Compean was initiated.

On March 10, 2005, Christopher Sanchez received a telephone call from Border Patrol agent Rene Sanchez of Wilcox, Ariz., who told the agent about Aldrete-Davila’s encounter with Ramos and Compean.

According to the document, Rene Sanchez stated “that Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila’s mother, Marcadia Aldrete-Davila, contacted Rene Sanchez’s mother-in-law, Gregoria Toquinto, and advised her about the BP agents shooting Aldrete-Davila. Toquinto told her son-in-law, Rene Sanchez, of the incident, and he spoke to Osbaldo via a telephone call.”

During the trial, the connection between Rene Sanchez and Aldrete-Davila confused the Ramos family, and “we questioned how an agent from Arizona would know or want to defend a drug smuggler from Mexico,” said Monica Ramos.

Kanof bristled when asked about the Rene Sanchez/Aldrete-Davila connection.

“It’s an unconscionable accusation that Sanchez is associated with a drug dealer,” she said. “Most BP agents who are Hispanic have family from Mexico. He was born in the U.S. and raised in Mexico and came back to do high school and later became an agent.”

The Ramoses also contend Aldrete-Davila’s story changed several times.

According to the memo, Aldrete-Davila told investigators the agents shot him in the buttocks when he was trying to enter the country illegally from Mexico. But according to Aldrete-Davila’s later testimony and that of the agents, he was shot after trying to evade the agents upon his re-entry into Mexico.

The memo never was disclosed to the jury.

Aldrete-Davila is suing the Border Patrol for $5 million for violating his civil rights.

MISSING HISTORY
As a Border Patrol agent, Ramos has been involved in the capture of nearly 100 drug smugglers and the seizure of untold thousands of pounds of narcotics. He also was nominated for Border Patrol Agent of the Year in March 2005, though the nomination was withdrawn after details of the Aldrete-Davila incident came out.

Ramos also had drug interdiction training from the Drug Enforcement Agency and qualified as a Task Force Officer with the Border Patrol. But Ramos’ training in narcotics — as well as the numerous credentials he had received for taking Border Patrol field training classes — was not admissible during the trial, he said.

“My husband is a good man, a loving father, and his devotion to his country and his job is undeniable,” Monica Ramos said. “Prosecutors treated the drug smuggler like an innocent victim, refusing to allow testimony that would have helped my husband. The smuggler was given immunity. My husband is facing a life in prison.

“It’s so frightening, it doesn’t seem real.”

The El Paso Sheriff’s Department has met with the Ramos family to discuss continued threats against them from people they believe to be associated with Aldrete-Davila. The sheriff’s department also has increased patrols around the family’s home.

The only other organization that has responded to the Ramoses thus far, Monica Ramos said, is the Chino-based nonprofit group Friends of the Border Patrol, chaired by Andy Ramirez.

“This is the greatest miscarriage of justice I have ever seen,” Ramirez said. “This drug smuggler has fully contributed to the destruction of two brave agents and their families and has sent a very loud message to the other Border Patrol agents: If you confront a smuggler, this is what will happen to you.”

TJ Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing border agents, said the Border Patrol’s official pursuit policy handcuffs agents in the field. He also sees the prosecution of Ramos and Compean as part of a larger effort by the federal government.

“The pursuit policy has negatively affected the Border Patrol’s mission as well as public safety. Part of that mission is to stop terrorists and drug smugglers,” Bonner said. “They could be smuggling Osama bin Laden, drugs, illegal aliens, or it could have been just some drunk teenager out on a joyride. You don’t know until you stop them.”

“The administration is trying to intimidate front-line agents from doing their job,” he added. “If they can’t do it administratively, they’ll do it with trumped-up criminal charges.

“Moreover, the specter of improprieties in the prosecution of this case raises serious concerns that demand an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation.”

COUNTING THE DAYS
About a week ago, feeling little hope, Joe Loya, Monica Ramos’ father, took the family on what will be Ignacio Ramos’ last fishing trip with his sons before he is sentenced.

“What kind of justice is this?” Loya asked. “What kind of nation do we live in when the word of a smuggler means more than the word of a just man?”

Monica Ramos says her hardest day is yet to come — the day the authorities take her husband away.

“We just guard (our children’s) hearts right now,” Monica Ramos said. “I think about the last time he’ll hug them as children, and maybe not get the chance to hug them again until they are grown men.”

The sons are between 6 and 13 years old.

Ignacio Ramos was, if anything, even more emotional.

“Less than a month left with my family,” he said, his voice choking, as though the air had been pulled from his lungs. “My sons,” he whispered. Then silence.

It took several minutes for Ramos to summon more words. “All I think about at night is the day I have to leave my family. I can’t sleep. I’ve always been with them.”

Then he talked about the memories he would never have, “their first dates, high school graduation, sports,” and the tears falling from his eyes were mirrored only by those of his wife, who took his hand into hers.

– Sara A. Carter can be reached by e-mail at sara.carter@dailybulletin.com or by phone at (909) 483-8552.

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