Jill Carroll, while working as a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor in Baghdad, was kidnapped and held prisoner for nearly 3 months before her release.
In addition to her work for the Christian Science Monitor, she was also a commentator for MSNBC. She had been living in Iraq since October of 2003, and was kidnapped on January 7, 2006.
Carroll is originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan and graduated with her bachelor's in journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1999.
ABDUCTION AND DEMANDS
On January 7, 2006, Carroll traveled with an interpreter and driver to Baghdad to interview a Sunni politician and the leader of the Iraqi People's Conference. Upon realizing that their interview subject, Adnan al-Dulaimi was not at his office, they left, but were ambushed by masked gunman.
Carroll's driver, Adnan Abbas, escaped the attack. He said that the attack from the gunmen and the subsequent kidnapping all happened within 15 seconds. Carroll did not manage to escape, and was kidnapped. Unfortunately, her interpreter, 32-year-old Alan Enwiyah was shot and killed, his body left at the abduction site.
Though Carroll was the 36th foreign journalist to be kidnapped since the Iraq War began in March of 2003, her kidnapping brought about one of the most widespread cries for release. The Monitor editor and Carroll's family both made statements in hopes to help secure her release. On tips that kidnapping activities were happening in a mosque west of the capital, the US raided it, but it amounted to nothing, except protests from Sunni Muslim citizens.
On January 17, 2006, 10 days into her captivity, a silent 20-second tape was released showing Carroll. A message following the video demanded that the United States release all female prisoners in Iraq within 72 hours, or they would kill Carroll. The kidnappers were unidentified, but called themselves the "Brigades of Vengeance".
On January 27, 20 days after her kidnapping and 10 days after the first video of Carroll was released, the US released 5 female Iraqi prisoners, who they claimed they planned to release before the 72 hour threat from the kidnappers.
A second silent video was released on January 30, showing Carroll wearing a headscarf and crying. Though the video was silent, some believe they can read her lips pleading to release all female Iraqi hostages in US custody.
A third video was released on February 9, 2006. At this point, Carroll had been kidnapped for over a month. This was the first video that was not silent, and she spoke in the video. She was sitting in a chair in a full Islamic dress, pleading to do whatever it took to release her. She claimed that she was alive and okay, but asked that supporters do whatever needed to be done as quickly as possible as time was running out.
The following day, a Kuwaiti television station reported that the kidnappers communicated a deadline: All demands must be met by February 26, 2006, or Carroll would be killed. Another report shared that Carroll was safe, staying in the home of one of the kidnappers with a group of other women. Though February 26 passed without demands being met, it was believed that Carroll was still alive.
Jill Carroll's safe release was not only a US interest. There were even efforts within Baghdad for her release. The Sunni political leader who Carroll was trying to visit when kidnapped released a statement, saying the act hurt him because she was trying to meet him and was kidnapped so close to his office. He called for the kidnappers to release her immediately.
Additionally, a Baghdad newspaper put on the front page: "She loves Iraq. Now she needs your help." Because Carroll was in Iraq to report Iraq's news, but also to defend their rights, she was not an enemy of Iraq's by any means.
In Rome, a giant poster of Carroll was hung on the city hall building, urging her release. In Paris, balloons were released after a month of her captivity in solidarity. The Council of American Islamic Relations, as well as 25 organizations within the International Freedom of Expression Exchange called for Carroll's immediate release.
On March 30, Carroll entered the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party offices, and said she had been freed, unharmed, and was treated humanely during her captivity. Within a few days, Carroll actually praised her captors as "good people fighting an honorable fight", which lead counterterrorism expert Laura Mansfield to report that Carroll may have experienced Stockholm syndrome as a result of the captivity.
However, according to the Christian Science Monitor, Carroll had actually been asked as one final demand for her freedom that she made a video praising her captors, and attacking the United States. She had been terrified, given that she had been held for 3 months and watched her friend die in front of her. Conservative bloggers and commentators were criticizing her heavily for her comments, perhaps not considering that they may have been made out of fear.
On April 1, 2006, Carroll made a statement saying that she had praised her abductors and criticized the US only because she was terrified for her life, and was told it was the only way she would be freed. She said in her statement that the things she said while being held captive and threatened should not be taken as her personal beliefs.
On April 2, 2006, 14 years ago today, Carroll returned home to Boston where her editor met her at the airport, and she quickly reunited with her family.
On August 19, 2008, Carroll shifted her career path and began training as a firefighter with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.
Jill Carroll wrote about her kidnapping, captivity, and release in her own words on the Christian Science Monitor, and I will not attempt to make those words my own. If you are interested in learning more about this story and want to hear about it in Carroll's own words, check it out here.