YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Captive U.S. Writer Said to Plead in Video

Al Jazeera airs new clip of a distraught Jill Carroll amid a spike in Iraq kidnappings.

January 31, 2006|Solomon Moore | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — Abducted American journalist Jill Carroll appeared in a video aired by the Al Jazeera satellite TV channel Monday, tearfully pleading for the release of all female detainees in Iraq, an announcer said.

The images were the first to be broadcast since her captors issued a video after her Jan. 7 kidnapping.

Looking wan and distraught, the freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor spoke into the camera, although most of what she said was unintelligible. Carroll was wearing a white head scarf and appeared before an ornamental red and yellow background.

The video was dated Saturday.

The Christian Science Monitor's David Cook said he had no advance notification of the Al Jazeera video. "We're still in the midst of trying to determine whether it is legitimate and what are its contents," Cook said.

A U.S. official who works closely with the Hostage Working Group, a Baghdad-based team of investigators and negotiators from intelligence and law enforcement agencies, said the organization was attempting to confirm the date of the video and determine whether it held clues to Carroll's whereabouts.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday February 01, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
Abducted reporter -- An article in Tuesday's Section A about kidnapped journalist Jill Carroll said that in the latest video of her, she wore a sweatshirt and appeared exhausted. That description applies to the video of her that aired Jan. 17.

Carroll disappeared this month after attempting to interview an Iraqi politician in Baghdad. On Jan. 17, Al Jazeera broadcast a silent video of her speaking.

In that video, the captors had threatened to kill Carroll unless the United States released all female prisoners in Iraq by Jan. 20. Five female detainees were released last week by American forces, who said the move was not a response to any threat or demand. At least four remain in custody.

In the latest video, Carroll wore a high-collared gray or white sweatshirt and appeared to be exhausted -- her eyes seemed to close involuntarily as she spoke impassively. The corner of the screen was marked "Brigades of Vengeance."

The communication comes amid a surge of abductions in Iraq. Last week, the kidnappers of four Western peace activists released a new video of their captives, and on Friday, two German engineers captured in northern Iraq pleaded for their lives on a video broadcast by Al Jazeera.

Also kidnapped were two Kenyan engineers, although no video of them has been released. The two disappeared after a Jan. 18 ambush in Baghdad.

The U.S. official, who requested anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the media, said the latest video was "proof of life" at the time of its production but that he could not be sure Carroll was still alive.

In many cases, abductees are taken by criminal gangs seeking cash ransom. But U.S. officials said many kidnap rings are affiliated with insurgent groups, who will pay for the victims.

The insurgents demand even higher ransoms to raise funds for battle or use the abductees for propaganda. "They get more value out of killing someone on TV than they do ransoming them," the U.S. official said.

For the abductors, the video's purpose is twofold, he said.

"The message that goes out to the Arab world is that this is about female prisoners in Iraq, that they're doing something noble," he said. "But really, this is a political message to create shock and fear in the heart of the 'infidel' -- to persuade them to withdraw, to pull out troops from Iraq. It's pure terrorism.... It's kill one, scare thousands."

The official said the Hostage Working Group was pursuing leads and questioning sources in the hope of bringing about Carroll's rescue or release.

A source with extensive knowledge of the secretive team said it was staffed by FBI officials and at times included members from the National Security Agency and CIA. The group is monitored by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad.

The source, who also spoke anonymously, said the team used each abduction investigation to add to a detailed database of informants and kidnapping networks. Previous patterns have helped it determine how some criminal organizations are linked to guerrillas.

Once investigators determine who is behind an abduction and their motivation, they are better able to respond to demands or negotiate through the media or by sending messages via informants.

"They try to get the message across that [the captors] might have something more to gain by keeping her alive than by killing her," the source said. "At the same time, you are trying to find out whether a rescue or release is possible."

The U.S. official said most hostage releases or rescues in Iraq were facilitated by Iraqi informants.

Information gleaned from kidnapping investigations is shared with agencies in Iraq that are fighting the insurgency, the official said. "Every single case feeds into the bigger equation."

Times staff writer Borzou Daragahi contributed to this report.

Los Angeles Times Articles