18 January 2006

US hostage 'has 72 hours left to live'

Scotsman.com

STEVEN HURST

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Click to view - Stills from the Arab TV video broadcast yesterday show the journalist Jill Carroll, who was abducted on 7 January. No group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but a logo revealed the name 'The Revenge Brigade'. Picture: AFP/ Getty Images

AN ARAB television channel aired a silent 20-second videotape last night of an American hostage, and said an accompanying message gave the United States 72 hours to free female prisoners in Iraq or the journalist would be killed.

Al-Jazeera would not say from whom it received the tape showing the reporter, Jill Carroll, but issued a statement itself calling for her release. A producer for the network said the tape was received yesterday. The producer said no militant group's name was attached to the message sent to the station with the tape.

However, a still photograph of Ms Carroll from the videotape, that later appeared on the Al-Jazeera website, carried a logo that read "The Revenge Brigade". The group was not known from previous claims of responsibility of violence in Iraq.

The tape showed Ms Carroll sitting in front of a white background and speaking, but her voice could not be heard. She appeared pale and tired.

The 28-year-old freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor has not been heard from since she was grabbed on 7 January in one of the most dangerous areas of the Iraq capital, Baghdad. Gunmen ambushed her car and killed her translator shortly after she left the offices of a Sunni Arab politician.

The US State Department quickly responded with a statement saying officials were doing everything possible to win Ms Carroll's freedom. "We continue to make every effort we can, working with Iraqis and others, to see Miss Carroll is returned safe and sound," a spokesman said.

Ms Carroll's family pleaded with her abductors to release her, in a statement released by the newspaper yesterday.

"Jill is an innocent journalist, and we respectfully ask that you please show her mercy and allow her to return home to her mother, sister and family," the statement said.

"Jill is a kind person whose love for Iraq and the Iraqi people are evident in her articles. She has been welcomed into the homes of many Iraqis and shown every courtesy. From that experience, she understands the hardships and suffering that the Iraqi people face every day. Jill is a friend and sister to many Iraqis and has been dedicated to bringing the truth of the Iraq war to the world. We appeal for the speedy and safe return of our beloved daughter and sister."

The US military raided a prominent Sunni mosque a day after Ms Carroll was kidnapped, sparking a demonstration by hundreds of worshippers. A US military official said the raid was a necessary immediate response to the kidnapping, based on a tip from an Iraqi citizen.

Insurgents in Iraq have kidnapped more than 240 foreigners and killed at least 39.

Ms Carroll, who speaks some Arabic and wore a head covering while moving around Iraq, has been described by her editor as an aggressive reporter, but not a reckless one.

Despite her language skills, Ms Carroll used an Iraqi translator. The translator was killed by the kidnappers. The driver of their car escaped the attack and is now safe with his family, said David Clark Scott, the Monitor's international news editor.

A statement by the Boston-based newspaper said that the kidnapping occurred about 300 yards from the office of Adnan al-Dulaimi, a leading Sunni Arab politician. Ms Carroll had planned to interview him, her driver said.

Mr Dulaimi, however, was not in his office, and Ms Carroll and her interpreter left after 25 minutes.

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