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Part 9 • The Muj brothers

Jill’s two guards watch cartoons and the Koran channel. But tension grows as she becomes more desperate.

| Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

(J.C.) Abu Qarrar was young, rotund, and seemed new to the mujahideen lifestyle. He hadn’t memorized much of the Koran, unlike his more senior counterparts. He sometimes sneaked glances at the women on the music-video channels when he thought no one was looking.

To show off, he would run in place, then kick his right leg in the air and fling his arms forward in an awkward demonstration of kung fu.

Abu Hassan was older, athletic, and seething with devotion to jihad. He seemed a veteran fighter – although, like Abu Qarrar, he loved the “Cat and Mouse” cartoons. Yes, they watched “Tom and Jerry.”

When he was bored – which was often – he’d use his cellphone to record himself giving fake fiery sermons standing at the top of the stairs as if on a mosque pulpit. Then he’d play them back, to hear how he’d sound if he were a famous imam.

These two men were my most constant guards. They reported to Abu Ahmed, one of Abu Nour‘s lieutenants. Abu Ahmed was an Islamic scholar who had just finished an Arabic translation of a Henry Kissinger biography and was reading ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.

The two guards weren’t at every house where I was held, and others came and went even when they were present. But during my captivity I spent more time with them than anyone else. They were my up-close-and-personal examples of the rank and file of the Iraqi mujahideen.

Abu Qarrar and Abu Hassan were also starkly different people, despite the fact that they called each other “brother.” In this, they were symbolic of the contrasts I saw in the larger group of mujahideen.

Some members were clever; others, not so much. Some seemed dangerous; most were devout. A few were sympathetic. A few were educated. At least one of the women appeared bitter about her lot in life.

As far as I knew, all were native Iraqis.

As the weeks of my captivity turned into months, Abu Qarrar and Abu Hassan became tense and unhappy. They were bored with guard duty and tired of inaction. They became more petty and controlling toward me.

Meanwhile, I was increasingly desperate, fearful, and angry. I felt I was beginning to lose my self-control.

The result was conflict between me and the Muj Brothers which, if not for the context, might have seemed adolescent. We couldn’t let little slights go. We were like animals in a cage, locked in all together.

• • •

(Photograph)
GLOBAL SUPPORT: In Rome, a poster of Jill was hung from city hall on Feb. 5.
Pier Paolo Cito/AP
Photos: Efforts to free Jill

(P.G.) The Feb. 26 deadline tied to the third video came and went. The kidnappers didn’t call. They didn’t write. They issued no new demands. But public interest in Jill Carroll’s plight didn’t flag. The Monitor’s Team Jill had adopted a strategy early on to take a low-key US media response. They followed the advice of experts who had analyzed The Wall Street Journal’s efforts to free Daniel Pearl after he was kidnapped in Pakistan: ignore the Western media, focus on Iraqi media. The kidnappers and ordinary Iraqis who might generate tips won’t be watching Larry King.

Still, Jill’s abduction struck a remarkable global chord. There was a series of “Free Jill” rallies in Paris. A giant poster of her was hung from the city hall in Rome. Students at the University of Massachusetts (where Jill went to school) and at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (where Jill grew up) held rallies and candlelight vigils. Thousands sent donations to a fund set up to support the family of Alan, Jill’s Iraqi interpreter. A jazz song was composed in her honor. Paintings and poems were sent to the Monitor offices. And prayers were said at hundreds of churches, mosques, and synagogues around the United States.

A 45-year-old man from Fremont, Calif., was one of half a dozen Americans who offered to take Jill’s place. “I would like to emphasize the fact that I am definitely not suicidal nor would I relish having my life cut short….

“I’m offering myself as a replacement for her as a hostage or even as a potential martyr for her outstanding work as a balanced and compassionate journalist,” he wrote.

(J.C.) Abu Qarrar claimed to have been part of the team that abducted me, but if he was, I didn’t see him. I do remember that he was the guard who sat outside the door of my bedroom on the first night I was held.

After all, he was hard to miss, with a girth that advertised his eating habits and a tattoo of Arabic writing on his inner left arm.

(Photograph) View our interactive map.

He told me he was 26. At the beginning of my ordeal he was unmarried. Later, he left for a period of time for an arranged wedding to a 13-year-old bride.

He didn’t know what e-mail was. He’d never seen a computer. He marveled at how a can opener worked. There were times when we got along well. But overall I thought he acted like a spoiled little boy who enjoyed his authority over another human being – namely, me.

I learned this early on. During the first full day of my captivity, he kept peeking in the door, presumably to make sure I wasn’t trying to escape. I’d heard that it was best for hostages to try to make captors see them as human beings, to elicit sympathy, so I tried talking to him. I asked him to help me with my Arabic.

I would point to things, and he would tell me their Arabic names. I was open, even friendly. That turned out to be a big mistake.

You can’t be that way with men in such a conservative culture. They often take it the wrong way. He began to get demanding, even assertive. At one point, the pin on my hijab came loose, and I started to pin it back up.

Abu Qarrar demanded, “No, open.”

I looked down and whispered, “No.”

He repeated, “Open!” He looked at me with wide eyes, very serious.

To Westerners this may sound like an innocuous exchange, but in the context of the conservative Middle East, this was a totally inappropriate advance. I needed to shut him down completely. I put my head down, held my hands in my lap, and didn’t move a muscle.

Finally he left and closed the door and locked it. He returned every hour or so, and I wouldn’t even look at him. I’d just sit there.

Abu Hassan I met later. He was older – about 32, I would guess – and married with children. Where Abu Qarrar was unathletic, Abu Hassan was trim and fit. He told me he’d been a gym teacher. For some reason I got the impression he’d been in Saddam Hussein’s elite Republican Guard.

At first I found him to be the more sympathetic of the Muj Brothers. His age made him seem more mature, or at least more responsible. Later I saw that by guarding me, he was being confined as well. Desperate as he was for action, he would get cabin fever in minutes. Then he’d pace, reciting the fatiha, the opening chapter of the Koran.

The relationship of the Muj Brothers to each other was not one of equals. At times, Abu Hassan treated Abu Qarrar as if he were an insurgent’s apprentice.

For instance, the older man taught the younger how to clear the chamber of his handgun and remove its clip. This was good for my safety, as Abu Qarrar would often point his handgun at me and pretend to shoot, for fun.

Abu Hassan used to go out at night sometimes to plant IEDs. Then in daylight he’d go out again, to detonate them. One day, when we were at the insurgent’s “clubhouse,” as I called it, he decided he would have to wait before leaving to set off his explosives. There were too many American soldiers in the vicinity, he said.

So Abu Qarrar decided he would act the part of the mujahideen hero. He grabbed a black-and-white checked kaffiyeh, the common Arabic head covering favored by insurgents, threw it over his shoulders in a dramatic swoop, and declared that he would set off to fight the Americans, no matter what.

Like a teacher facing a rebellious student, Abu Hassan grabbed Abu Qarrar by the shoulders and snatched away the kaffiyeh over Abu Qarrar’s loud objections. The younger man wasn’t going to be allowed to pick his own battles. And Abu Hassan recognized the kaffiyeh for what it was, a giant flashing sign to any US soldier that as much as said, “Shoot me! I’m a muj!”

(J.C.) As my time in captivity passed the two-month mark, my morale, already low, began to deteriorate sharply.

One of my biggest problems was that I had let myself have hope. Numerous times, the insurgent leader, the black-eyed Abu Nour, had said my release was only a matter of settling details. Inevitably, my mood would soar – and then the release wouldn’t happen, due to some unspecified “problem.” Then I’d feel worse than if I hadn’t been told anything at all.

Then there were the videos. They had been astounded when my first hostage video, in which I had been forced to plead for the release of women at Abu Ghraib, had coincided with the freeing of five female prisoners by the US. After that, they seemed to be almost in a frenzy to see what else they could get in exchange for me.

They kept wanting to film different videos with different demands aimed at different audiences. Sometimes I was pleading with the American people in general for help. Once I asked the King of Jordan to free Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, a woman who tried to blow up a Jordanian hotel Nov. 9, 2005. Her explosive vest failed to detonate and she was caught. Another time I begged for aid from the leader of the United Arab Emirates. Later, I made one denouncing him.

While only four of my videos ever reached the outside world, I made nearly a dozen, including retakes done when I didn’t cry enough to satisfy my mujahideen producers. And I dreaded making them, not so much because it’s scary to plead for your life in front of a camera, but because I recognized that each one was a guarantee I would remain in captivity for some time longer.

Of course, there was an even worse alternative – that the death threats and deadlines they mentioned would be real.

• • •

(P.G.) After the fury over the Feb. 22 Samarra bombing and the backlash over Danish newspaper cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, it seemed wise to lower Jill’s media profile until emotions calmed somewhat. From about mid-February no public service ads were broadcast.

On March 7, the two-month mark of Jill’s abduction, the Monitor restarted the PSA campaign in Iraq. It distributed a video to Iraqi news outlets that included clips from an Al Sharqiya TV interview. The Baghdad-based network had interviewed an Iraqi family that Jill had written a story about in the spring of 2005. A toddler had been left paralyzed by a suicide bomber, and her family had been left homeless. Jill had profiled the family, and later brought money to them sent by readers.

The story illustrated her compassion for Iraqis. But it also highlighted how Jill’s personal and professional history made it easy to generate public support for her in the region.

On March 10, the US State Department announced that they had found the body of American Quaker activist Tom Fox. He had been taken hostage on Nov. 26, 2005, along with three other members of the Christian Peacemakers Team. To those working on Jill’s behalf, it was an emotional blow; a harsh reminder that hostages held long enough to become icons with their own TV news logos often get killed.

Would PSAs be enough to protect her?

(J.C.) Meanwhile, my relationship with my guards Abu Qarrar and Abu Hassan got worse as well. Frustration and boredom had slowly eroded their once permissive and friendly attitudes toward me.

Once they had pretended I was a guest. Now they made mean jokes and comments about me in Arabic, thinking I didn’t understand. They capriciously restricted my tiny freedoms, such as access to sun, fresh air, and even interior space for pacing.

Their logic was twisted. They were mad at me because they had to guard me, and wanted to punish me for it.

They picked at me in petty ways. One day we were having tea, and I took my glass and stirred it counterclockwise, as I always do.

“No, that’s wrong!” said Abu Qarrar, only half-joking. “Stir your tea clockwise!”

I was tired of that kind of behavior. When we later moved to Abu Ahmed‘s house west of Fallujah, I went over their heads, in essence, to gain more freedoms. I took advantage of the situation to escape the Muj Brothers and hang out with the woman of the house.

They couldn’t follow me. The woman’s husband was gone during the day, and it would have been unthinkably improper for unrelated men to be around her in any way.

So I had one of the best days I had in captivity. The woman and I chopped vegetables, cooked, washed dishes, swept the floor, made tea, and played games with her little girl. I sensed a flicker of sympathy when the woman complimented my potato peeling ability, and when she asked what people in America ate for breakfast, as we set out the morning meal.

If I pretended hard enough, I could almost fool myself into thinking I really was a guest, living with an average Iraqi family for a story about daily life.

(Photograph)
INSURGENT HOME: US officials say that this kitchen is in one of the homes where Carroll was held.
US Marine Corps/AP

But I wasn’t a guest. I was a prisoner. And my guards were determined to win our battle of wills.

A few days later we were back at the clubhouse, where there weren’t any women, and they were little kings. After we arrived, they just locked me in my room.

All my hard-won privileges were gone. They let me out to eat, but wouldn’t eat with me. In the Middle East, that’s a major insult. They wouldn’t speak, except for blunt orders.

After dinner, I was going back to my room when I turned and yelled, “This is injustice! This is thuloum!”

My strategy from the start had been to humanize myself. The only way to survive, I thought, was to get them to see me as a person, not a symbol or an object of hate. But by this point, I had put up with so much from so many people, I didn’t care. All the questions:

“Why aren’t you a Muslim?”

“Why don’t you love Zarqawi?”

“Why don’t you want to drive a car bomb?”

Plus the fact I’d been kidnapped and Alan murdered. It was all ridiculous.

They just locked me back in my room. And that night, as I lay there, I thought, “I can’t do this. I’m not going to win this. It’s stupid to try.”

The next morning, I didn’t knock on the door to come out. I waited for them to fetch me. When they did, I just kept my head down and walked to the bathroom. I was quiet and deferential – as I had been in my ordeal’s early days.

I had to keep my eye on the larger goal, which was survival. I had to give in.

The Muj Brothers had won the battle with me. That didn’t mean they had won a war. In the following days, Abu Hassan slept less and less. He’d pull out his handgun and play with it.

“The American soldiers, they will never leave Iraq,” he said one day. “It will be 300 years before they go away.”

It was the first time I had every heard any of the mujahideen express anything less than complete optimism about the future.

(Photograph)
TWIN SISTERS: Jill and Katie Carroll say that they didn’t get along as children (top photo, at age 5). But after they graduated from high school (bottom) that began to change.
Photos Courtesy of the Carroll Family

(P.G.) As March slipped away, to some involved in the long effort to free Jill, it was as if they were now coasting – like a car that was moving forward, but with the engine off.

So Team Jill did what they had agreed to do when things seemed too quiet. They’d kept one person in reserve, someone who might get lots of attention and elicit much emotion: Jill’s twin sister, Katie. It was time to put her on TV.

The funny thing – the ironic thing – is that Katie and Jill were twins who didn’t get along. Not when they were youngsters, anyway.

They fought and fought and fought all the way through high school. The points of contention between them were the usual sibling irritants, such as whose turn it was in the shower, and who’d been in whose room, and when, and for how long.

They were just different sorts of people, with different lives. Katie was a dancer and looked like a ballerina; Jill loved competitive swimming and had a muscular swimmer’s build.

But their relationship changed when they went away to college (Tufts University for Katie; the University of Massachusetts for Jill). They spent hours on the phone with each other, and suddenly the person who had been so irritating when they lived in the same house seemed like an invaluable support.

After graduation, both ended up working in the same area: foreign affairs. Katie joined an international development firm, based in Washington. Jill pursued her dream of becoming a foreign correspondent.

Katie appeared on Al Arabiya on March 29. She talked about how Jill’s kidnapping had affected her family and appealed for information that could lead to her release.

• • •

(J.C.) I got worse. I was losing it. I would curl up in the bed and cry so hard. But I couldn’t be loud, so I would cry into the bed, into the plush blanket.

Through all the weeks and months I hadn’t prayed. I thought it would be hypocritical. All of my extended family is Catholic, but I hadn’t been to church in a long time. I hadn’t grown up with much religion, in fact. But I needed to calm myself. I knew that my family and friends were doing all they could for me, but it just wasn’t enough anymore. They were out there, and I was here alone. OK, I thought, I’ll ask God for strength and patience.

“God, thank you for getting me through all these days so far,” I began. “Please just give me the strength to keep going.

“Stay with my family right now and sit with them and give them strength.

“I know I never used to come to You before and it’s bad of me to come to You now when I really need it.

“Please, just stay with me right now. Just stay with me right now and don’t leave me.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Part 8 • A new enemy

After the Feb. 22 shrine bombing in Samarra, killing Shiites became more important than killing Americans – or guarding Jill.

| Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

(J.C.) Blind again under the black scarves – a now familiar routine after one and a half months in captivity – I was herded into a car, headed for yet another change of houses. I didn’t know who the two men in the front seat were until I heard a voice I barely recognized, due to the speaker’s exhaustion.

“Abu Rasha is very tired. It was a very busy day,” said Abu Nour’s No. 2, speaking in the third person, as night fell like its own black scarf on the world outside.

Abu Rasha was a large man, one of the organizers of my guards. His house in Baghdad – or what I took to be his house – was one of the first places I’d been taken after being kidnapped. I’d spent a lot of time in his presence. But I’d never encountered him in a state like this.

“Today was very, very bad,” he said. “All day, driving here, and driving there, with the PKC and the RPG,” he said, referring to Russian-made machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, which were among the insurgents’ most common weapons. It had been a day of hard fighting. But they hadn’t been confronting US or Iraqi soldiers. Today, they had had a different target: Shiites.

(Photograph)
SAMARRA: On February 22, 2006, a large explosion destroyed the golden dome shrine of Ali al-Hadi, one of Shiites’ holiest shrines.
GETTY

Two days earlier, on Feb. 22, an important Shiite mosque in Samarra, Iraq, had been blown up. Shiites had attacked Sunni mosques in retaliation – the result being a vicious cycle of attack-and-response that had altered the world of my Sunni Islamist kidnappers.

We arrived back at the place I called the “clubhouse,” near Abu Ghraib, later that night. Slumped in a plastic chair in a room lit by the stark half-light of a fluorescent camping lantern, another mujahid told me their new bottom line.

“Aisha,” he said, calling me by the Sunni nickname they’d given me, “now our No. 1 enemy are the Shias. Americans are No. 2.”

• • •

(P.G.) As editor of the Monitor, Richard Bergenheim was the person who spoke to contacts who required special handling. That meant, for instance, that if FBI Director Robert Mueller called, he answered. And Mr. Mueller did call, early on, to ask if the Monitor was getting the help it needed.

It also meant that as the Jill Carroll hostage crisis dragged on, Mr. Bergenheim found himself at the center of the strange case of Daphne Barak and Sheikh Sattam Hamid Farhan al-Gaood (also spelled Gaaod). The Monitor was simply pursuing every lead, but this would be quite a rabbit hole.

On her website, Daphne Barak describes herself as “one of the few leading A-list interviewers in the world.” An Israeli-American syndicated television journalist, her interviewees have included everyone from Hillary Clinton to members of pop star Michael Jackson’s family.

Mr. Gaood, to some US officials, isn’t so much a celebrity as he is notorious. “One of Saddam Hussein’s most trusted confidants in conducting clandestine business transactions,” according to the CIA’s 2004 report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The same report said Gaood was once the director of El Eman, the “largest network of Iraqi front companies” that smuggled oil out of Iraq and foodstuffs into Iraq in violation of the UN oil-for-food program, but “he has stated that he believed this to be legitimate business.”

Sometime in late January, a source at a US television network told the Monitor that Ms. Barak was trying to sell an interview she’d conducted with Gaood – and that Gaood had mentioned helping get Jill Carroll out.

So Bergenheim called Barak. The story was true – or, at least, the part about the interview was.

Gaood had said, in an offhand way, that kidnapping was wrong, and Jill should be released. Pressed, he’d said something to the effect of, yes, he could arrange her freedom, he’d even use his own money, if needed – but so far, no one had asked him to.

(J.C.) The wave of sectarian violence which overtook Iraq following the destruction of Samarra’s Askariya Shrine had a huge impact on the nature of my captivity.

That was because the level of activity of the mujahideen group which had seized me greatly increased. Many of its members were out fighting their new war almost every day.

At first, I thought this was a bad thing for me. It was destabilizing the status quo – and under the status quo, at least I was still alive.

I didn’t want to be killed just because I was now a burden. And I certainly didn’t want to be caught in the middle of a Sunni-Shiite firefight.

But after a while it became clear that this conflict, despite its horrible effect on Iraq itself, might be a good thing for me. Their main mission was now something to which my presence was, politically speaking, only tangential. And they began running out of places to put me, because suddenly, American and Iraqi troops were everywhere, trying to keep the peace.

From my first days in captivity I’d seen evidence that they weren’t just kidnappers but also insurgents actively conducting attacks. They didn’t much bother trying to hide their firearms and explosives.

For instance, one morning at the location I knew as the mujahideen clubhouse I awoke to find fresh dirt in the bathroom, dirt in the shower, and dirt in the washing machine. I didn’t think much of it. Maybe they were washing their shoes.

(Photograph)
JILLIAN TAMAKI

But I quickly learned that the appearance of dirt meant that someone in the house had been out planting bombs – IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices, the mujahideen weapon of choice. I knew from my reporting, and the time I spent embedded with US Marines, that IEDs were now responsible for about half of all US combat deaths in Iraq.

Not all their explosives were offensive weapons. At least one of my guards – Abu Hassan, a serious man – wore a suicide vest inside the clubhouse.

One night, he was leaning over a little gas-powered stove, cooking eggs and potatoes in oil, and then he sat back and pushed the open flame away, saying something like, “Oh, have to be careful!”

The suicide vest was under his shirt, sort of swinging back and forth. He was afraid the fire would ignite the explosives. And if it did, we’d all be dead.

He used to complain about how heavy it was. He’d wear it at night. He would mime for me what would happen if soldiers came, showing how he’d put it on, with shoulder straps, and then how two wires would connect. Then he would move his hands outward in a big motion indicating an explosion, look upward, and go, “BOOM!”

(P.G.) The prospect of help from Sheikh Gaood raised hopes at the Monitor’s offices in Boston at a time when other tracks of investigation seemed to be drying up. But it quickly became a serious source of tension at the paper and among the US agencies who were supposedly cooperating to find Jill.

The Monitor’s Baghdad correspondents Scott Peterson and Dan Murphy didn’t trust Gaood’s motives. Was Gaood trying to win favor with the US government – as it investigated violations of the UN oil-for-food sanctions program? And the FBI wasn’t happy about it either. They wanted to keep Gaood out of the picture.

US and foreign intelligence sources, on the other hand, said that Gaood had indeed been a powerful figure under Saddam Hussein. And, the CIA’s report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction described Gaood as “linked” to an insurgent network near Fallujah that “actively sought chemical weapons for use against Coalition forces” in 2004. It was possible he had the contacts to release Jill, they said, but there were no guarantees.

Which government agency was right? How should the Monitor advise the Carroll family? And how much should the Monitor invest in pursuing this track?

According to intelligence sources, the CIA checked with the FBI, the lead agency in the Carroll case, before providing the Monitor with more background on Gaood. The FBI replied with a blistering e-mail: the CIA should stay in its own lane, and stop talking to the Monitor about the Carroll case. (Today, the FBI says no such message was sent. But Gaood “was assessed as a complete ‘X’ factor, which means undemonstrated credibility,” says FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.)

To try and settle this intergovernmental dispute, Bergenheim called Mr. Mueller, the head of the FBI. You asked if we were getting the help we needed, he said, in effect. Well, we aren’t.

(Photograph)
SATTAM AL-GAOOD: The former senior Iraqi Baath party official, shown here at his house in Amman, Jordan, Monday, Jan. 2, 2006, suggested that he could secure Jill’s release.
NADER DAOUD/AP

The FBI response? The Monitor was given two new, higher-level contacts within the bureau, but from then on the paper’s editor was given less information about the government’s efforts in the case.

Bergenheim decided to tell the Carroll family about the Barak/Gaood connection. Bad move, said the Baghdad Boys. But on Feb. 9, Jim and Mary Beth Carroll went on “Good Morning America” and asked for the help of the “powerful sheikh,” without naming him.

A few days later, Gaood issued a statement from his exile in Jordan, calling for Jill’s release to prove that the Iraqi insurgency “does not kill innocents.”

Nothing happened. And the days dragged on.

(J.C.) There was no mistaking that the mujahideen who held me hated America. “One day, hopefully, one day, America, all of America gone,” said one of my guards early in my captivity. He spread his hands out wide as if to wipe America off the map.

“I don’t quite understand,” I said. “All America?”

My female jailer Um Ali, listening in on the conversation, translated the sentiment into simpler Arabic for me. “No journalists, no people, no nothing,” she said.

I could also see that Shiites were high on their list of enemies. Once, when attempting to explain the historical split between Sunnis and Shiites, Abu Nour, the leader of my captors, stopped himself after he referred to “Shiite Muslims.”

“No, they are not Muslims,” Ink Eyes said. “Anyone who asks for things from people that are dead, and not [from] Allah, he is not a Muslim.”

He was referring to Shiites appealing to long-dead Islamic leaders to intercede with God, asking for miracles such as curing the sick. It’s a practice similar to that of Catholics praying to saints.

But after the Feb. 22 bombing of the Askariya Shrine, and rampant Sunni-Shiite killing, nearly every captor I came into contact with would tell me about their hate for Shiites first. Abu Nour now simply referred to them as “dogs.”

• • •

(Photograph)

(P.G.) The Monitor and the family still talked almost every day, but they had less to say to each other. There were fewer leads and less information to share.

In Baghdad, a new case officer from the British security consultants had arrived and was proving difficult to work with. Correspondents Murphy and Peterson were irritated by prodding from Boston to rotate out for a rest.

Neither Peterson nor Murphy considered themselves particularly religious. But as Peterson notes, “there are no atheists in foxholes.” From the beginning, he drew strength from the book of Psalms, and this passage: “Truth brings the elements of liberty. The power of God brings deliverance to the captive,” written by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this paper.

Some nights, at the end of the last conference call with Boston, the pair would listen to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” performed by Jeff Buckley. It filled the apartment, and lifted their spirits, with a song that Murphy knew to be one of Jill’s favorites.

Eventually, reluctantly, Peterson took a two-week break with his family in Istanbul, Turkey.

In mid-February, Jim notified the Monitor that he had opened a new channel with someone claiming to be an intermediary for the kidnappers. Hopes rose again.

An Arabic interpreter was brought into his home. But under FBI advice, Jim refused to tell Team Jill in Boston or the Baghdad Boys any of the details. Even more frustrating to Murphy and Peterson, Jill’s father told them to shut down any other tracks they were pursuing, including talks with Jordanian officials who had just said they would try to help. The Monitor reporters didn’t want to be working at cross-purposes to Jim, so they reluctantly sat on their hands.

But after the bombing of the Askariya Shrine, fighting surged between Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents, prompting more curfews. Jim’s Iraqi contact stopped answering his phone. Days dragged into a week, two weeks.

Another dry hole.

Discouraged, Jim sent word that Murphy and Peterson could resume their efforts in Iraq. By now, Murphy needed a break and left for Cairo.

(J.C.) On the day in late February that an exhausted Abu Rasha had told me that Shiites were now the mujahideen’s top target, he’d told me something else, something chilling.

“We killed an Al Arabiya journalist,” he said, his face drawn, his eyes hard. “She said the mujahideen are bad.”

It was unclear if he meant that he himself had participated in the killing or if it had been done by men from the larger group of mujahideen.

They’d frequently assured me that I wasn’t going to be killed. But clearly there were times when their rules for jihad allowed them to kill women, and to kill women journalists.

As I learned after I was released, the well-known Al Arabiya newswoman Atwar Bahjat and two colleagues were abducted and killed by gunmen while they were interviewing Iraqis near the bombed Samarra shrine.

I bounced from house to house over the next few weeks – mostly between the clubhouse and a new house west of Fallujah – and the guards grew incredibly agitated. They would bitterly complain to me about being stuck with guard duty. Abu Hassan – the guard with the suicide vest – would sleep and eat little. He was always on edge. He would fiddle with his 9mm pistol obsessively and leap to his feet to peer out a window at the first sound of a helicopter or barking dog.

(Photograph)
ATWAR BAHJAT: Jill Carroll’s captors said they killed this TV journalist on Feb. 22.
AFP/GETTY IMAGES

He spent his time on the phone, checking in with others for the latest news on their campaign to kill Shiites. When anyone came to the house, he pumped them for stories about their “work,” as they all called it.

In his state of agitation and boredom, he began raising suspicions about the Shiite neighbors. They didn’t know I was there. They didn’t appear to know that the men at this house were mujahideen. They’d drop off fresh bread or yogurt, or stop to chat outside, just as Iraqis had done for generations.

They did not yet recognize that those days of amity were over.

 

 

 

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