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Epilogue • Family reunion

Lessons learned for Jill and the Monitor about her campaign for freedom. What’s happened to Alan’s family?

| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

On April 2, 2006, a white Lufthansa 747 with the designation “Hamburg” written on its side taxied up to a gate at Boston’s Logan Airport. At 12:22 p.m., Jill Carroll stepped off the plane and onto US soil.

As she passed through customs, agents and other officials on duty crowded around for a chance to see her. Whisked into a waiting car, she was driven to the Monitor’s headquarters in Boston’s Back Bay, a police escort around her and news helicopters overhead.

Jill was traveling light. She’d left a big yellow bag of clothes and toiletries from her captivity in the Green Zone in Baghdad. She’d decompressed there for a day, talking to members of the US Embassy’s Hostage Working Group, before traveling on an aircraft carrying American casualties to Ramstein Air Force Base in Landstuhl, Germany.

(Photograph)
ZIPPY! Jill’s family shouted her nickname out of the window as she pulled up in front of a Boston apartment on April 2, moments before they were finally reunited.
MELANIE STETSON FREEMAN – STAFF
Photos: Homecoming photos

In Boston, her car went straight into the underground garage of the Christian Science church headquarters. In a preplanned bit of evasion, she was led through basement corridors under the complex to a loading dock on a nearby side street. She then jumped into a blue van – easily missing the media horde camped outside the Monitor building.

The van went only a few blocks, to a nearby church-owned townhouse. There, Jim, Mary Beth, and Katie crowded around an open window, yelling her nickname, “Zippy!”

Jill met them coming down the hallway in a whole-family embrace. She wept and said, “I’m sorry.” She was home.

(Photograph)
SISTERS REUNITED: Katie and Jill Carroll hug in Boston on April 2 upon Jill’s return from Iraq. Their parents, Jim and Mary Beth Carroll, look on.
MELANIE STETSON FREEMAN – STAFF
Photos: Homecoming photos

Nearly five months on, what’s to be learned from Jill Carroll’s kidnapping and release?

Monitor editors and correspondents were heartened by the global condemnation of the kidnapping, especially from Muslim religious leaders and even militant groups, such as Hamas. They remain proud of the media campaign they helped mount, from the solicitation of statements on Jill’s behalf to the public service announcements that ran in the Iraqi media. They believe it was targeted to the right audience – the Middle East – and well placed. They know the kidnappers saw some of it.

It’s presumptuous to say it led directly to her release, but “I do think that changed the mental climate,” says Richard Bergenheim, editor of the Monitor.

Another obvious conclusion is that Iraq has become a very dangerous place for the news media. More than 100 journalists, including interpreters and assistants, have died there since March 2003.

Since Jill’s kidnapping, the Monitor has upgraded its security measures in Baghdad – both because of what had happened to her and because of the worsening situation on the ground. Editors won’t detail those measures, so as not to undermine their effectiveness. The paper has kept a British security firm on retainer for consultation.

As for Jill herself, she says that her experience taught her about priorities. Throughout her 82-day ordeal, she missed her family and her friends. Work and success didn’t seem so important anymore. “I never once wished I’d filed one more story,” she says.

But she doesn’t regret going to Iraq in the first place. She was doing what she had always wanted to do – foreign reporting. Since her release, she has returned to Egypt, and is glad of it. She experienced again the distinctive culture of the Islamic world in a peaceful context.

“What happened to me is not the whole Middle East,” she says.

Jill is no longer a freelancer. To provide financial support in anticipation of her eventual release, the Monitor quietly made Jill a full-time employee a week after she was abducted. This fall, she’s been accepted into a journalism fellowship program at a major university. After that, she plans to return to writing from overseas.

Why was she released? Probably no one really knows except for her kidnappers. Maybe the public pressure worked. Maybe private whispers via Western and Middle Eastern intelligence convinced influential Sunnis that harming Jill wasn’t in their best interest.

Maybe as the political situation changed, so did the priorities of her kidnappers. Maybe the kidnappers just got what they wanted – publicity or the release of women from Abu Ghraib prison. Or maybe Jill herself – the smart, young American who spoke Arabic – helped alter her captors’ plans.

“One of the most effective weapons against terrorism is the truth. The truth was that Jill Carroll was not the enemy of her captors. Her father spoke that truth, and the rest of the world repeated it,” says Christopher Voss, special agent with the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit in Quantico, Va.

As far as the Monitor and Jill’s family can determine, no ransom changed hands to win her release.

Earlier this month, the US military announced that it had captured four of Jill’s suspected kidnappers, after raiding a total of four locations in Baghdad, Abu Ghraib, and a village west of Fallujah. US sources in Baghdad have told staff writer Scott Peterson that the man Jill knew as “Abu Ahmed” (aka Sheikh Sadoun, say US military sources) was arrested by US Marines on May 19. The others in custody are guards, not the top figures in the group.

Members of murdered translator Alan Enwiya‘s immediate family have left Iraq, where they felt endangered. They are applying for US government permission to join their extended family in the US.

Jill never met the man who shot Alan. She was told that Alan’s killer died a few weeks later during an insurgent military operation.

Driver Adnan Abbas, having survived the abduction, was initially a suspect. He passed a polygraph test, and was cleared by Iraqi police. He, his wife, and four children (including a newborn) have also moved to another country. Their future remains uncertain, but their ambition is to live and work in the US.

The Monitor has established two funds to help these families start new lives. Among the donations received so far: The $800 cash the mujahideen gave Jill just prior to her release. She plans to sell the gold necklace and donate those funds, as well.

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. They have left Iraq and hope to move to the US where they have relatives.

Jill Carroll’s driver, Adnan Abbas, is a witness to Alan’s murder. He, his wife, and their four children (including a newborn) have also fled Iraq for their own safety.

In response to readers, the Monitor has established funds to help each family start a new life. Donations may be sent to:

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

The Adnan Abbas Fund
c/o The Christian Science Monitor
One Norway Street
Boston, MA 02115

Donations can also be made online.

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Part 10 • Freedom

Make another video, Jill is told, and you’ll be let go. But she doesn’t believe it until they give her a gold necklace and eight $100 bills.

| Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

(P.G.) The evening of March 29, Katie Carroll went to a party with some of her friends. Earlier that day, she had gone on the Arab satellite television network, Al Arabiya, to plead for her sister’s life.

When she got home that night, Katie imagined – as she had before – how great it would be if the phone would ring, and she would answer it, and it would be Jill, and this would all be over.

Just like that.

• • •

(J.C.) Little Hajar toddled away from the sagging bookcase holding a chapter of the Koran in her hand. She was heading for the foot-pedaled sewing machine, where a shiny candy wrapper had caught her attention.

She grabbed the wrapper, then showed me her treasures. She wasn’t yet 2 years old and was so small that our eyes were at the same level as I sat cross-legged on the floor of the house west of Fallujah. I’d been here almost two weeks and March was almost over.

“What’s that? What’s that? Oooh, wow,” I said, admiringly.

Hajar was great to play with despite the fact that her dress-and-jacket outfits were often smeared with yogurt or other messy food. Sometimes she’d bang on the door of my room to be let in. She was my only friend, the one person in this mujahideen household not responsible for my captivity.

This time, as the candy wrapper sparkled in her hand, the door suddenly opened. I looked up, expecting to see Hajar’s mother or father coming to bring me tea or food as usual.

Instead, I glimpsed Abu Nour‘s visage as he entered. As always, the leader of these mujahideen had come out of nowhere, like an apparition. I cast my eyes to the ground, afraid he’d think I knew too much about his face.

Hajar collapsed into the velveteen of my dishdasha tunic and buried her face in it, afraid of this stranger.

“I know how ya feel, kid,” I thought as I stroked her fine hair and small, motionless back.

What did Ink Eyes want? I hadn’t seen him for three weeks. He’d promised then that he would release me in three days – a promise that had been just as worthless as the many other times he’d vowed I was on the brink of freedom.

I had learned to stop believing the promises, to protect myself from that terrible tease called hope.

I used to cling to every word Abu Nour said, analyzing them for days afterward for any hint of my fate. Now, after almost three months of captivity, I just didn’t have the mental energy to do that anymore.

Instead, all I wanted was to minimize pain and have good days. A few minutes of playing with a child or helping women in the kitchen was an attainable goal. Seeing my family again – that was impossibly far away, a dream.

I stroked Hajar’s hair, only half-listening to Abu Nour drone on. I just wished he would go so Hajar and I could resume our game.

“Well, today is Monday, and tomorrow is Tuesday,” Abu Nour was saying. “So maybe in three days we’ll let you go.”

Twenty-four hours before my release he would return and we could have a final conversation about the mujahideen, he added.

I’d heard all this a million times.

“Oh thank you, sir,” I said, trying to smile as he left.

“Yeah, right,” I thought. “Don’t listen to him. Don’t get your hopes up, Jill. Just don’t do it.”

This was my theory: They were worried about my mental state. Since my bitter blow-ups with the Muj Brothers, Abu Qarrar and Abu Hassan, the mujahideen seemed to think I was fragile. Abu Nour hadn’t seen me in awhile, and he had just come to say hello. Maybe he thought a dose of false hope would keep me from doing something drastic.

It was late March. “Dad’s birthday is May 6,” I thought. “If they let me out before May 6, that will be OK. That’s all I really want.”

Abu Nour had come on Monday. Tuesday was OK: I got to play with Hajar. Then Wednesday came around. I can’t remember why, but I lost it.

I sobbed the whole day. Quietly, so they wouldn’t hear me. I was so tired, so worn out. I’d been fooling myself, thinking some days were happy. It had been three months and I was drifting further and further away from my family, from my life. Enough was enough. “Let me out!” I screamed to myself. “Let me out!”

That night, I was sitting in my room in the dark, all upset. And I heard Abu Nour’s voice.

They brought me into the sitting room after dinner. As always, I smelled his distinctive cologne before I saw him. Abu Nour sat cross-legged on the floor, his head bent toward the ground.

He had told me he was going to come back 24 hours before I was released.

“Tomorrow morning, we’re going to let you go,” he said. “We’re going to drive you to the Iraqi Islamic Party and you will call your newspaper and you will be free.”

I had no reaction. He might as well have said, “Here, have some tea.”

Then came the catch: I needed to make one more video. And I needed to forget much of what he had told me about himself and his group, as well as much of what I had seen.

I had to forget about the Majlis, or council, of mujahideen that he had claimed to lead. I had to say his group was medium-sized, not big, not small.

“You can’t talk about the women and children,” said Ink Eyes. “You have to say you were in one room the whole time and … you were treated very well.”

I was supposed to “interview” him one last time, and he would tell me what I was supposed to say to the world. He handed me a notebook in which I was to write down his words.

(Photograph)
JILLIAN TAMAKI

“Anything outside the notebook is forbidden,” he said.

Abu Nour wanted to make the video that night, but the power went out. So we made it in the morning. I didn’t know then that within a day it would be on the Internet.

After the filming, they put me back in my little room. The night before, they’d told me that they would pay me for my computer, which they would keep, and that they would bring me a gift.

Abu Rasha, the large man who served as the head of the mujahideen cell I spent most of my time with, once had told me that when they let me go, they would give me a gold necklace, just as they had done for Giuliana Sgrena, an Italian journalist who’d been kidnapped in Baghdad in early 2005 and held for a month.

I still wasn’t excited. Money and gold, that was my ticket to freedom. I figured that if they did give me those things, then the end might truly be at hand.

Abu Nour said goodbye. I stammered out some kind of reply. Then I waited, and waited. Finally, the woman of the house rushed in with new clothes for me to wear. There weren’t proper shoes, so she gave me her own black high-heeled patent leather sandals. They fit perfectly.

They rushed me into a car waiting outside. I still didn’t have gold. I still didn’t have money. I began to panic.

Abu Rasha was next to me in the back seat. He leaned over me, or so it felt, as I panted, blind, beneath three black scarves.

“Jill, we asked the Americans for the women prisoners and there were none,” he said. Normally his voice was slow and quiet; now it was loud.

“Oh,” I said, crouched in darkness, blind, hot, and breathless.

“And then we asked the government for money, and they gave us none,” he said.

“Oh yes, I know,” I said.

“Now we’re going to kill you,” he said, agitated and close to my head.

I thought they were going to do it. I imagined the gun. All they’d told me that day had been lies.

I knew I couldn’t be afraid. I had to make them think they were good people who weren’t capable of killing me.

I forced a laugh.

“No, Abu Rasha, you’re my brother, you wouldn’t do that!” I said, trying to keep the desperation out of my voice.

He laughed, more convincingly than me. “No, we’re not going to kill you,” he said. “We’re going to take you to the Iraqi Islamic Party and drop you off.”

I went limp. Tired, frozen, spent, I didn’t know what was going on anymore. I couldn’t make sense, couldn’t analyze. I had nothing left.

We drove and drove and drove. They kept calling on cellphones to the car ahead, to make sure the way was clear. Finally, Abu Rasha told me to lift my scarves and keep my eyes straight down. He started placing $100 bills in my hand. For my computer, I got $400, and then another $400 for my trouble.

Then he said, “Oh yes, we got you this,” and shoved a box into my narrow field of vision. He opened it and pulled out a gold necklace, with a pendant attached.

The money. The gold. Maybe they were really going to let me go.

We switched cars. I was in the front seat, with Abu Rasha driving. He began a monologue, angrier than anything I had ever heard from him. He spewed venom and expletives in English at the American military and government. He railed against the occupation, the war, and the Abu Ghraib prison.

I assured him that I wouldn’t tell the US military or American government that I was free, and I meant it. I would only call my journalist friends to come get me and have them drive me to the airport.

(Photograph)
View the neighborhood where Jill was dropped off and the Iraqi Islamic Party office where she was taken in our interactive map.

I had spent nearly three months feverishly trying to convince my captors that I wasn’t a CIA agent. If I was dropped off and immediately sought help from US officials, the mujahideen would assume that I really was a spy, I thought.

And I was afraid of what they then might do. The mujahideen had done everything they could to drill this message into my head over the past three months: They were omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. There was no escape from them, even in the Green Zone. Maybe not even in the US.

Abu Nour had once told me they had eyes everywhere, and that they’d be watching me after I was released. I’d long imagined a car bomb crashing into a military Humvee sent to collect me.

Then Abu Rasha pulled the car up to a curb. He handed me a note written in Arabic explaining who I was and told me to get out, lift my scarves, and walk a few hundred meters back.

The car door opened. It was Abu Qarrar, one of my Muj Brothers guards who’d appeared from nowhere. He handed me my gifts and a big bag full of all the clothes I’d accumulated over the last three months.

So my least favorite captor was the last one I saw. I said, “OK, Abu Qarrar, OK, goodbye, goodbye.” Then I hauled away, tottering down the road in an insurgent’s wife’s high-heeled sandals, grappling with my stuff, scarves flapping in my face, an ex-hostage bag lady returning to the world.

I found the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) office and handed the man behind the desk the note. I was panicky, terrified, starting to shake. I just wanted to use the phone, I mumbled in Arabic.

Instead, the man ran to notify the manager of this IIP branch office. “The same journalist?!” the manager said incredulously after reading the note. Debate over what to do with me followed. I felt weak, lost. All I knew was that I wanted to call my hotel.

Things moved quickly after that. They tried to hustle me into a white car for a drive to IIP headquarters. I resisted; I just wanted the hotel. I asked again to use the office phone, but was told that none of them worked.

A cellphone appeared, with a call for me. It was Tariq al-Hashemi, the IIP leader, later to become the new government’s vice president. I told Mr. Hashemi that I wanted him to call my hotel, and if no one from the Monitor was there, to call the Washington Post office and have them come get me. He said he would also call the US Embassy. I begged him not to, but he insisted.

(Photograph)
TARIQ AL-HASHEMI: The head of the Iraqi Islamic Party gave Jill Carroll a gift of a Koran shortly after her release on March 30.
APTN/AP
Photos: Reactions to Jill’s release

After a few minutes, a convoy of white SUVs and trucks with flashing lights and gunmen roared into the driveway and streets around the office. The IIP officials brought me downstairs and hurried me into a bulletproof luxury vehicle, complete with leather seats. I realized it was Hashemi’s personal security detail. The lights and guns and militarylike atmosphere terrified me.

I wanted to shout, “I don’t want this!” as we zoomed away.

Things were going horribly wrong. The mujahideen were going to see me; they were going to kill us. They would think I lied, that I hadn’t called my colleagues to come get me in a low-profile way. I doubled over in the seat, hiding below the ledge of the tinted windows.

A man sitting next to me laughed and said, “Why are you doing this?”

“I don’t want them to see me,” I said. Didn’t he understand?! I wanted to shout at them to let me out, to stop, to make the cars with the flashing lights go away. We tore down Baghdad’s streets, a giant screaming convoy with guns sticking out everywhere. I was terrified that every ordinary car we passed was a car bomb sent by the mujahideen to kill me for breaking my promise.

“Be careful of car bombs, be careful,” I told the man driving in Arabic. I checked the location of the door lock and handle in case the vehicle went up in flames and I needed to get out in a hurry.

The guards looked bemused, as if I was crazy, and said not to worry.

For me, my release is one of the hardest memories of my captivity. I don’t know why. Suddenly, my structure was gone. There was no one to tell me what to do.

My body was free, but my mind was not. I was conditioned to be whatever anyone around me wanted me to be. I had no opinions, no self-will. I didn’t know how to make decisions.

The IIP headquarters was a blur. They wanted to make a video of me, and they had me write a letter of thanks and make an audio recording. This was strictly to ensure that no one would accuse them of being my kidnappers, they said. The video was then widely broadcast.

Two close friends from the Washington Post, including Ellen Knickmeyer, the Iraq bureau chief, showed up. Someone gave me a phone, and I called my twin sister, Katie.

(Photograph)
KATIE CARROLL: Jill’s twin sister left her home in Washington on March 30 for a reunion in Boston.
CHRIS GARDNER/AP
Photos: Reactions to Jill’s release

(P.G.) At 5:45 A.M. on March 30, Katie was awakened by a ringing phone. She rolled over, looked at the caller ID, and saw that someone in Iraq was trying to reach her. In an instant, she knew.

They say that dreams come true, but seldom in life is it given to any of us to have such a perfect moment.

She grabbed the phone. “Katie, it’s me,” said the voice on the other end of the line. “I’m free.” Jill and Katie both started to cry.

As the Carroll family’s chief communicator, Katie immediately launched into contact mode, calling people on a predetermined list, working from the East Coast toward the West as the sun rose.

She didn’t have to call her parents. Jim and Mary Beth Carroll got their own wake-up calls from Jill.

At the Monitor’s headquarters in Boston, the news spread quickly. Editors began looking through the happiest of their premade plans, “Carroll Release Logistics.”

In Cairo, staff writer Dan Murphy was having lunch with a journalist colleague. He and Scott Peterson had begun rotating in and out of Baghdad every few weeks. A friend from Reuters sent him an instant message: “Congratulations on Jill being free.”

Mr. Murphy didn’t believe it. After all, over the course of the past months he’d had nine or so false reports of Jill’s freedom. He called back and told his friend nothing had happened. “No, man,” his friend insisted, “we’re just snapping it out of the States. ‘The Christian Science Monitor confirms…’ “

• • •

(J.C.) I made the video for the IIP. My state of mind was reflected in the fact that I felt guilty for delaying the start of filming so I could call members of my family.

I learned that Scott Peterson was still in Baghdad. I was sure he would have fled. I called him on Ellen’s cellphone. He was at the CNN offices where he was working on a new set of public service videos about me.

I was still on the phone with Scott when the US military arrived. I was so afraid of the soldiers. “What should I do, Scott?” He told me if they were there, they were the surest way to safety. I hung onto my friend Ellen from the Post as we went downstairs.

We got into an armored vehicle. I still had my big bag of stuff. I figured the mujahideen were watching. They were watching everything.

The hatches closed. We were driving along, and I finally started to relax.

(Photograph)
VIDEO AMBUSH: Moments after being brought to the Iraqi Islamic Party headquarters, Jill Carroll was interviewed by party officials for ‘internal use.’ The video was released to the media within hours.
APTN/AP
Photos: Reactions to Jill’s release

One of the soldiers pulled out a picture of me that he had been carrying with him. “I don’t need this anymore,” he said, and gave it to me.

Another pulled off a flag that was attached with Velcro to his uniform, and gave that to me, too.

A third, sitting to my left, said “We’ve been looking for you for a long time.”

How did these men know who I was? I didn’t understand why they had a picture of me. I had no idea how much coverage my kidnapping had received.

I sat and talked with Ellen. After a few minutes, she said, “You can take off your hijab now.”

“No, no,” I said.

I waited a minute. Then I said, “Well, actually … I guess I can.”

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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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Part 7 • False hopes

How the insurgency operates and views the world. Five Iraqi women are released but Jill must make another video.

| Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor
(J.C.) It was late January the next time we moved. Hot and tired of traveling, I threw up all over myself. They didn’t know that I’d always been prone to car sickness.

“Do you need a doctor? Are you sick? We can bring you a doctor,” said Abu Rasha, my No. 2 captor, who was driving. Again and again, I saw that their beliefs would allow them to deprive me of my freedom and kill Alan, yet also lead them to express sincere concern over my health and well-being as their hostage.

When we finally came to a stop I was led, stinking, into a new house – the sixth place I’d been, in the three weeks I’d been held. It wouldn’t take much to prompt a move: a helicopter overhead, wild dogs barking at night, a US patrol in the vicinity. At the time, I thought the house was south of Baghdad. The US military now says it was near Abu Ghraib.

Once inside, they steered me directly into the bathroom, and I stripped off my soiled clothes.

The house was so new that the mujahideen were still building it around me. No family lived here. This was a house built by Abu Nour, my lead captor, solely for the use of the mujahideen. It was a meeting house, a bomb factory, and, for me, a jail.

In my head, I called it “the clubhouse.”

Here there were no women and children to serve as buffers between me and my captors – or to witness my eventual fate.

I’d felt some measure of safety in the presence of the mujahideen families. That might have been an illusion. In any case, now it was gone.

As the weeks of my captivity accumulated, I felt physical and mental stress begin to mount.

The inactivity was claustrophobic. The psychological poking and prodding of my captors – who knew so little about Americans that they were shocked I wasn’t blond – sometimes made me feel like an animal in a zoo.

Constant adrenaline crashed up against chronic fatigue. I’d lie down at night, and my eyes would feel swollen. I’d close my eyelids and it would seem as if they weren’t big enough to go around my eyeballs.

Sometimes I would think about people back home and I would feel a little better. My grandparents are Catholic and they go to Mass every day. I would figure what time it was in the US and would think, “I bet they’re praying for me right now. I bet they’re saying, ‘Let’s pray for our granddaughter, Jill Carroll.’ “

If it was early morning in America, I would imagine my mom, dad, and twin sister, Katie, waking up. If it was a little later I would think, “They’re having their morning meeting at the Monitor. Maybe they’re talking about me.”

That was my only escape.

At first in the clubhouse, I was happy to sit alone in my bedroom and not be bothered.

Between moments of terror, throughout my captivity were long hours doing nothing. Here, I didn’t want to look around the room too much, because I wanted to save the newness, and the interest of looking at new things as long as I could. After fear, boredom was my tormentor, my constant enemy.

I’d think, “I’m going to spend today looking at the heater. And then tomorrow, I’ll sit in a different part of the room, and it’ll look different.” I’d stare at flies for hours.

It sounds crazy now, but then it seemed normal. If you looked at everything all at once, it became familiar and boring really fast.

I sang camp songs to myself, and songs that Mom used to sing to me. I spun fantasies of US marines rescuing me. I ruminated over old boyfriends and choices I’d made. I deeply questioned my decision to come to Iraq. I had devoted a year in Jordan to studying Arabic and working at an English-language newspaper, slowly learning my craft. For what? To spend my last days under the thumb of the bleepin’ muj? If I ever got out, I decided I’d never leave the US again.

At night, I would think hard about Katie, sending her mental messages: ‘I’m OK. Don’t worry. Can you feel me, Katie?’ In my head, I’d write letters to Dad, in North Carolina, telling him about my days. I’d imagine him hugging me and hugging me in the doorway, telling me everything was OK.

I spent a lot of time staring at my toes, and wondering if I was slowly going around the bend.

After several days at the clubhouse, the guards asked me if I wanted to watch them make dinner. Then they let me watch a little TV. Eventually, they let me pace the length of the house, about 15 steps, and help wash dishes and prepare meals. I was overjoyed with these activities after so many hours spent doing nothing.

(Photograph)
THE CLUBHOUSE: This house near Abu Ghraib was one of at least six locations where Jill Carroll was kept hostage. The US military says soldiers raided it in May.
View interior photos of ‘the clubhouse’ in our interactive map.

US MARINE CORPS

Access to sunlight became the most important new benefit, though. It poured into the sparse sitting room where my guards slept and where we all ate.

I was desperate for light after painful days in dim rooms in the Abu Ghraib house with my now-departed female minder, Um Ali. I had been handed off to a different cell under Abu Nour, to a different set of guards.

One of the guards at this new house, who had himself spent time in prison, seemed to understand the way I felt. One morning before breakfast, he tied back the thin curtains.

“Sun,” he said smiling and gesturing at the bright streams pouring in through the etched glass windows.

I sat on the ground in the sunbeam and closed my eyes. It penetrated my eyelids and warmed my face.

By this point, I had learned much about the way the mujahideen operated. To me, at least, some of their tactics were surprisingly clever.

Take transportation. Men with beards, and cars with only one or two men, drew too much attention from patrols and at checkpoints. So they shaved their beards and drove around as families, kids and women included. They played Shiite music. As insurgents, they knew how to not look like an insurgent.

(Photograph)
ILLUSTRATION BY JILLIAN TAMAKI

They have the home-field advantage. As Abu Nour, the leader, told me more than once: “I can go out, plant my bomb, and go back and have a homemade dinner with my wife. What are American soldiers going to do? They go back [to their base] and do not have good food or get to see their family.”

Abu Nour (“Ink Eyes”) began coming to see me almost every day. Clearly, he felt freer to visit the clubhouse than the other places I’d been held. It was during one of these visits that he’d mentioned Margaret Hassan, and I’d hysterically begged for the guards to use a gun to kill me, not a knife.

At the clubhouse, he also appeared eager to have me “interview” him (see story). He seemed to have begun to view me as a messenger – an idea I had been pushing, hoping it would give them a reason to set me free.

My hands always shook when I did these “interviews.” Like all interactions with my captors, they felt like mine fields, or chess games.

Among other things, Abu Nour said that some people joined the mujahideen because they were angry about the treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison or raids on their homes at night. Many enlisted following a battle they considered a great victory – the April 2004 fight for Fallujah, a city west of Baghdad in the Anbar Province.

Abu Nour added that too many of these new recruits had impure motives. That, he said, is why they lost Fallujah to US forces in November 2004.

“A good mujahid enters the war so [that] if he dies he goes to heaven,” Abu Nour insisted.

Secular insurgents were useful allies, but wouldn’t be allowed to take part in the Iraqi government after the mujahideen’s final victory, he said. Sunni politicians participating in the current US-backed government were traitors to Islam and should be killed.

My captors would laugh, for example, when Adnan al-Dulaimi would appear on TV – either when he was pleading for my release or as part of a group of politicians trying to form a new government. I had gone to interview Mr. Dulaimi when they seized me in front of his political headquarters in Baghdad.

[In a press conference on Jan. 20, Dulaimi said: “By kidnapping her, you are insulting me. You’re insulting the work that I’ve been doing for Iraq…. release her….” Nine days later he issued another tearful public appeal for Jill’s release, which was featured in the Monitor’s Iraqi media campaign in February and March.]

(Photograph)
ADNAN AL-DULAIMI: The Iraqi politician on Jan. 20 at a press briefing calling for Jill Carroll’s release.
AP Photo/Hadi Mizban

“Look, Jill. Ha, ha. There’s your ‘friend’ Dulaimi,” they scoffed each time he appeared. “Oh, please, please free Jill! Ha, ha, ha, ha.” They mocked him.

Within minutes of my capture, I had suspected Dulaimi, the head of the Iraqi Accordance Front, a Sunni political party. The kidnappers were waiting for us when we left his office. They must have known about my appointment ahead of time.

During one of these talks at the “clubhouse,” Abu Nour said that Dulaimi had been to see him that week. Dulaimi had begged Ink Eyes to let me go. Later, the guards told me that Dulaimi had been back again. Dulaimi said, “Please, please let her go. The [US] soldiers are threatening to arrest my sons. Tell me where Jill is. Let her go.” (See related story)

My captors were angry about being labeled “terrorists.” But the deaths of innocent people caused by their activities – such as the murder of my interpreter, Alan Enwiya – didn’t taint the purity of their jihad.

“Sometimes when we try to hit the American soldier or Iraqi soldier, sometimes we kill women and children in this operation,” said Abu Nour at one point. “We don’t want to …, but this is war.”

Periodically, Abu Nour would tell me people were calling for my release. He would never say whether this was good or bad.

Throughout my ordeal, my captors would make oblique references to what I later discovered were organized appeals on my behalf. For example, Abu Nour wanted to know if I knew the leader of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group. I thought it was another test of my character. Later, I learned Hamas had issued a statement condemning the kidnapping of civilians.

When my father and mother made their first televised statements, Abu Rasha said, “Your father and mother say, ‘Hello’ to you.”

“Very good man, good man, your father,” he said.

It was clear that whatever my parents had said on TV had made a good impression.

One day Abu Nour arrived, and said that five women detainees had been released. This was important, and good news, he said.

(Photograph)
GOING HOME: Two of the five Iraqi women released from a Bagdhad detention center were driven home on Jan. 26. US officials said the release was not related to the demands of Jill’s captors.
Hadi Mizban/AP

“This is Step 1,” he said. “Now we have to go to Step 2.”

He wanted me to make another video, and ask for the release of all Iraqi women prisoners.

I was crushed. Another video meant days or weeks of waiting for it to air, then waiting for a reply. The black-eyed leader – someone who I thought never saw me as a person, despite the chocolates he brought from Baghdad – now thought he had something really valuable. The last thing they were going to do was let me go.

It wasn’t until later that I figured the release of the five women had helped by making it harder to justify killing me.

(P.G.) Five Iraqi female detainees were released on Jan. 26, along with some 450 male prisoners. While US officials denied this was in response to Jill’s captors’ demands, her family saw it as a hopeful sign.

But four days later, Jill’s twin sister, Katie, got a disturbing call from Amelia Newcomb, deputy foreign editor, who served as the Monitor’s liaison to the family. The kidnappers had released another video, said Newcomb; and on this one Jill was crying.

Immediately Katie assumed the worst – that this was evidence her sister was being mistreated. She snapped on her television, and, indeed, saw a picture of a sobbing Jill. And in an instant, she felt much better.

Jill was faking, Katie thought.

She knew her sister. She knew that when Jill really cried it was like the Nile at the crest of a flood. The tears would come so hard, Jill wouldn’t even be able to see, if she didn’t wipe them away.

But this was different. This was … restrained. Maybe the kidnappers were coaching Jill. Maybe she wasn’t being physically mistreated.

Katie wasn’t the only family member to take heart from the ostensibly disturbing video. Mary Beth Carroll didn’t think her daughter was crying, either. Clearly, Jill was being fed – her cheeks weren’t sunken – and she was dressed in a neat hijab, which seemed in some manner a token of respect.

Nine days later, a third video of Jill appeared on a Kuwaiti television station. This time, for the first time, her voice could be heard. “I am with the mujahideen,” she said. “I sent you a letter written by my hand, but you wanted more evidence, so we are sending you this letter now to prove I am with the mujahideen.”

On Feb. 10, a day later, the owner of the Kuwaiti television station said that sources close to the kidnappers had told him there was a Feb. 26 deadline. Two whole weeks! The US had that long to release all Iraqi women from its prisons, or else. To Mary Beth, that meant Jill’s safety was guaranteed for the next 16 days.

The day after the video came out, Mary Beth woke up in a good mood. After the daily worries she and the rest of the family had experienced, this was almost like being on vacation, she thought.

 

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Part 6 • Reciting Koranic verses

Jill agrees to study Islam, but realizes it’s a mistake. She hatches a plan to escape.

| Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

(J.C.) Um Ali – the wife of Abu Ali, my stubble-bearded captor – was my constant companion during the first three weeks of captivity. She was about 25, very pretty with big eyes. Wherever I was moved, she came, too, along with some of her children. At first, I thought she might be an ally or at least sympathetic. She wasn’t.

One night – one of the first nights in a new house in Abu Ghraib – Um Ali and I had lain down on the thin mattresses that served as beds by night and seats by day. I had just taken off my head scarf when suddenly a guard rattled the key violently in the lock and burst into the room, flipping on the light.

(Illustration)

ILLUSTRATION BY JILLIAN TAMAKI

In a frenzy, using very basic English, he ordered me up. I leapt up, my hands shaking so much I couldn’t get my head scarf repinned.

The guard started wrapping a red-and-white-checked kaffiyeh around my mouth and head, violently and tightly. I opened my eyes wide in terror, silently pleading for help to Um Ali, who was standing next to me.

Her gaze returned no sympathy. The guard whispered orders to her in Arabic that I couldn’t understand.

“Hurry, hurry, quickly, quickly,” the guard hissed angrily in Arabic.

The kaffiyeh was wrapped so hard that the dry fabric was cutting into my mouth.

“They’re going to haul me out and shoot me in the head,” I thought in panic.

He was so angry. His hatred was obvious from the violence with which he wrapped the kaffiyeh around my head. He didn’t know me, but I was an American, a symbol.

Um Ali had my glasses. As they moved me to a chair in the hall, I heard a “click, click.” Terrified, I thought it was a gun being cocked.

“If an American soldier comes here you don’t speak,” he said.

That was the reason for the frenzy! He thought there were soldiers nearby. He then demanded that I recite the Koran.

“I just have to live through this. I just have to live through this,” I thought, sitting, head bowed, blind, and breathing with difficulty. I was terrified.

After about 20 minutes it appeared no soldiers were coming. He led me back into the room and barked a command to sleep.

There were no whispered words of comfort or explanation from Um Ali.

In my early days of captivity, at one of the first houses I’d been held, an elderly woman who’d been visiting looked sadly at me and told me that inshallah – “God willing” – I would go home soon.

Then the visitor turned to Um Ali and sighed that my captivity was thuloum, or an injustice.

“This is not thuloum,” Um Ali snapped back.

My female companion/jailer/suicide-bomber-wannabe grew more irritated and despondent as the days wore on. Um Ali was stuck with me in a dim little room.

Then one evening she bounded in with a grin. She was delighted by the news reports that thousands of homes in California had been destroyed by forest fires.

“This is justice” wrought by God, she said, “because the soldiers destroy our houses.”

Part of Um Ali’s growing hardness toward me came as I tried to let her know that, despite the many hours of reciting the Koran with her, I didn’t plan to convert to Islam.

In the beginning I was an eager student, as I saw how much it pleased them whenever I showed an interest in learning. But I soon realized I had made a dangerous mistake.

(Photograph)
ISLAMIC TEXTS: At one point Jill Carroll’s captors thought her conversion to Islam might progress more rapidly if they gave her a Koran translated into English. But they could only find one in French.
ROBERT HARBISON – CSM/FILE

The more I let my captors teach me, the more they expected me to convert. After a few weeks, the question was always, “Why haven’t you come to Islam yet?”

I tried to put the brakes on delicately, afraid of what they might do if they thought I was rejecting Islam. How could I tell them that adopting a new religion and code for living wasn’t possible when I was held captive, racked with despair, and in fear daily for my life?

One afternoon, when I was exhausted from listening to Um Ali repeat verses of the Koran over and over so I could memorize them, I said, “I don’t understand the Arabic in the Koran, and so I can’t understand what it really means.”

“We’ll bring you an English Koran,” said Abu Ali, who had overheard me. “You want this?”

They were always insisting that they didn’t want to pressure me into converting, while at the same time asking me why I hadn’t converted yet.

“Oh, sure,” I said.

Abu Ali whipped out his cellphone, and made a call. “You have a Koran in English?” he said. “Quickly, quickly, bring it.”

He sounded almost frantic as he gave the person on the other end of the line directions about where to meet him.

After about 20 minutes he returned, bearing a small, green Koran. Emblazoned in gold on the cover was “Le Qur’an.” It was a French translation – not an English one.

Later, I tried telling Um Ali, gently, that I probably wasn’t going to convert after all.

She said she would be angry if I didn’t convert, given the time she had spent teaching me.

“We are afraid for you and don’t want you to go to hell,” she said. “We are afraid that we’ll see you [on Judgment Day] and you’ll say, ‘Why didn’t you save me?’ “

(P.G.) In the early days, Mary Beth Carroll did Sudoku puzzles or read cards sent by well-wishers before she went to bed. A week and a half after the abduction, Jill’s mother decided to attend a Sunday Mass at which Alan Enwiya was going to be memorialized. She had been invited to a Chicago-area Assyrian Christian church by some of his relatives. It turned out to be a cathartic trip.

Mary Beth and her companions arrived at the church on time – but it was almost empty. As the Mass began, it filled up, pew by pew. By the end of the emotional three-hour service it was jammed with parishioners who prayed for Alan and prayed for Jill, as Mary Beth sobbed into her handkerchief. She knew Jill would want her to be there. It made her feel closer to her absent daughter. And it was the first time she’d cried since the whole ordeal began.

The strain was also evident at the Monitor.

While the public support was heartening, Jill’s emergence as an iconic figure – a smart, pretty, and idealistic American caught in the maelstrom of Iraq – heightened the pressure in Boston and Baghdad. After all, terrorists behead Western icons.

While the stress was nothing like what the Carrolls faced, Team Jill and the Baghdad Boys (staff writers Scott Peterson and Dan Murphy) felt compelled to exhaustively pursue every lead, no matter how thin. And it was taking a toll. At one point, a worried British security adviser told editors in Boston that Murphy and Peterson “go to bed at 3 a.m. every night, after plotting the next day’s strategy, and wake up expecting this will be the day Jill is found. That’s unrealistic, and they can’t keep this up.”

Through most of the time Jill was in captivity, a single 8-by-11-inch color photo of her in a hijab hung near the door of the building that houses the Monitor’s Washington bureau. It had been placed there as a backdrop to a press conference by David Cook, D.C. bureau chief and the paper’s public face through the crisis.

The avuncular Mr. Cook has three sons not much younger than Jill. He passed that photo, as it grew more dog-eared and tattered, every day.

“You’d come in the door and see her picture and think, ‘Have I done everything I could today to help get her out?’ “

• • •

(J.C.) I thought about escape from the beginning and made several elaborate plans. At one of the first places I was held, there was a small window in the bathroom, about six feet up. If I reached up, I could peek out, just a little bit.

I looked out two or three times. Each time, I would do it a little bit longer. I saw a field of tall grass that stretched for about half a kilometer. Behind that was a row of tall palm trees running roughly east, toward Abu Ghraib. I’d overhead them talking about the prison. And the prison meant a bazillion US marines.

But I’d been too brazen. After several days, a guard came in after breakfast and said, “A man told me yesterday you were looking out the bathroom window.

“You know, I have a very dark place under the ground. It’s cold, with a very small door,” he said, repeating a warning I’d been given my first night in captivity. “There’s no light. I have this place.”

They hammered a tarp across both the bathroom and bedroom windows. The loss of sunlight was devastating. It may not seem like much, but it was hugely demoralizing.

They watched me all the time. Even when it seemed I was alone, there were men with guns just across the hall. I was moved often. I wasn’t sure which direction to run even if I got out. Escape looked impossible. All the things I had imagined about the future – marriage, children – they were just gone. They were just gone, and not going to happen.

(P.G.) Murphy and Peterson weren’t investigators in the law-enforcement sense. They never visited the scene of the kidnapping, as that Baghdad neighborhood was now too dangerous. (Neither did the FBI investigators, who were not allowed to leave the safety of the US-controlled Green Zone without an armed military escort.)

But for almost three months, the two reporters made finding Jill their primary job.

In a way, they became scholars of kidnapping. Dan created a database and drew diagrams of which groups had claimed responsibility for holding which hostages and when, to look for connections. They strategized with the British security firm, the Iraqi police, and the US Embassy’s Hostage Working Group in the Green Zone. They were told aspects of the FBI and US military efforts, but never given the full picture. So, they sifted through cases that might be analogous to Jill’s, to see who had been released and who hadn’t. They looked for things that people on the outside had done that might have helped.

In one instance, the friends of a kidnapped Australian put up posters in the neighborhood where the crime had occurred, pleading for his safety. Murphy and Peterson decided to take that idea and supersize it. They mapped out a three-stage media plan, starting with advertisements in newspapers, then moving to radio news and television public service announcements (PSAs).

Their theme was “Jill Carroll loves Iraq and loves Iraqis. She needs your help. Please help free Jill Carroll.”

Each step built on the previous one. The TV spots – produced with the invaluable help of CNN Baghdad staffers – used the voices of Iraqis themselves (“Oh, she was like a sister to me”) with pictures of Jill in her hijab, quotes from Mary Beth, and, in one, 30 seconds of the Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi calling for her release.

And Iraqi television news directors were generous with donated time.

The point was to get people who might know something to come forward with information. But the Monitor Baghdad Boys knew they were walking a thin line. They wanted to keep Jill in Iraqi minds, as a sympathetic character — making it harder for her captors to kill her. But they didn’t want to be too loud or make her too hot a property. That might raise any ransom demand through the roof. Or, worse, it might cause her kidnappers to believe that they needed to get rid of her, fast – and that death was their best option.

One day, Ink Eyes, my chief captor, arrived for a chat. He sat just outside the doorway, out of my field of vision. I leaned against the wall, knees up, head down. I was afraid to even move.

He started by telling me about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who was the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. He called Zarqawi his “good friend.”

“He’s such a good man…. If you met him, you would like him so much,” Abu Nour said warmly.

But Zarqawi wasn’t the head of the mujahideen any more, Abu Nour told me, he was simply one member of something new: the Mejlis Shura Mujahideen Fil Iraq.

Roughly translated, this was “Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq.”

The Americans were constantly saying that the mujahideen in Iraq were led by foreigners, he said. So, the Iraqi insurgents went to Zarqawi and insisted that an Iraqi be put in charge.

Zarqawi agreed, the story went. An Iraqi named Abdullah Rashid was the new head of the council.

“You don’t know who is Abdullah Rashid?” said Ink Eyes.

No, I indicated, I didn’t.

“I am Abdullah Rashid!” he said. (See related story.)

I sat there in absolute panic. I couldn’t even move. This man was telling me he was friends with Zarqawi – someone who personally beheaded hostages! And this guy was Zarqawi’s boss? What did this mean?

But as I saw in coming weeks, Zarqawi remained the insurgents’ hero, and the most influential member of their council, whatever Nour/Rashid’s position. And it seemed to me, based on snatches of conversations, that two cell leaders under him – Abu Rasha and Abu Ahmed – might also be on the council.

At various times, I heard my captors discussing changes in their plans because of directives from the council and Zarqawi, including one in Arabic I only partially understood: something about how my case should be resolved “without money and without killing.”

But that night – with the nature of those who held me spelled out for the first time – I lay on my bed motionless in the dark.

“Come, come pray,” I heard Ink Eyes, aka Abu Nour, aka Abdullah Rashid, say in the next room.

Someone else recited the call to prayer. They must all be in there, gathered together.

“Allahu Akbar,” the mujahideen said.

I couldn’t see them, but I knew the identical motions every Sunni Muslim in the world performs in prayer. Now they were standing shoulder to shoulder, hands raised near their faces, palms out.

The wall was like paper. Only a tissue seemed to stand between their devotions to God and me.

“Allahu Akbar,” they said, sighing and quietly grunting as they kneeled on the ground.

“Allahu Akbar,” they repeated, as they rose from prostration. “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar,” they said, with every movement.

I listened, afraid to breathe. I had to cough, but I suppressed it. I thought, “If I cough during their prayer, maybe they’ll kill me.”

I lay on my back, hands clasped across my stomach. Eventually I dozed off.

Next morning, I woke up in the same position.

That’s the way I woke up every morning in that house – frozen in the position I’d assumed after crawling into bed. I was too afraid to move, even in my sleep.

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. They have left Iraq and hope to move to the US where they have relatives.

Jill Carroll’s driver, Adnan Abbas, is a witness to Alan’s murder. He, his wife, and their four children (including a newborn) have also fled Iraq for their own safety.

In response to readers, the Monitor has established funds to help each family start a new life. Donations may be sent to:

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

The Adnan Abbas Fund
c/o The Christian Science Monitor
One Norway Street
Boston, MA 02115

Donations can also be made online.

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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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