Image: Jill Carroll
AFP - Getty Images file
Jill Carroll, 28, a freelance reporter working for the Christian Science Monitor, was seized by gunmen Jan. 7.
msnbc.com news services
updated 2/28/2006 5:59:57 PM ET 2006-02-28T22:59:57

American reporter Jill Carroll is being held by the Islamic Army in Iraq, the insurgent group that freed two French journalists in 2004 after four months in captivity, Iraq’s Interior Minister said Tuesday.

Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, who is in charge of Iraq’s police, also said he believed the 28-year-old freelance reporter for The Christian Science Monitor is still alive, although the deadline set by her captors for the U.S. to meet their demands expired Sunday.

Three videotapes provided by the kidnappers to Arab satellite television stations identified the group holding her as the previously unknown “Revenge Brigades.” She was seized Jan. 7 in Baghdad and her translator was killed.

However, Jabr told Iraqi television that he believes Carroll is being held by the Islamic Army in Iraq, one of the country’s principal insurgent groups.

Jabr said the same group was responsible for kidnapping his sister, who was seized about four days before Carroll and freed about two weeks later.

“The kidnapping of the American journalist, Jill Carroll, occurred about the same time as the abduction of my sister,” he said. “I was equally keen to get both of them released. I recognized that the Islamic army was responsible for both plots.”

Jabr said he sent a message to his sister’s kidnappers and asked for help in winning Carroll’s freedom. He said he also provided information on the case to the FBI.

Group involved in previous kidnappings
The Islamic Army in Iraq has been involved in kidnappings before, including the Aug. 20, 2004, abduction of French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot. They were freed the following December.

The group killed Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, who also was abducted in 2004, and claimed it killed American contractor Ronald Schulz last December.

Jabr is among the most controversial figures in Iraq because of allegations his ministry sanctions “death squads” that have kidnapped and assassinated Sunni civilians. U.S. officials have demanded changes in the ministry in the new government expected to take power this year after the Dec. 15 elections.

On Monday, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad agreed Carroll was alive, noting that Jabr was “optimistic about her release.”

“I have discussed the issue with the interior minister,” Khalilzad said Monday on “Good Morning America.” “She clearly is in a dangerous situation, but we’re working hard with the Iraqis and others to get her released.”

Raids but no results
Iraqi police on Sunday conducted raids in search of Carroll.

The freelancer for the Christian Science Monitor was last seen in a videotape broadcast Feb. 9 by the private Kuwaiti television station Al-Rai.

Station owner Jassem Boudai said then that the kidnappers had set Feb. 26 as the deadline for U.S. and Iraqi authorities to meet their demands or they would kill her.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military released about 390 detainees in Iraq after a review committee found no reason to hold the men, a statement said.

The releases were recommended by a panel consisting of U.S. and Iraqi officials from the ministries of human rights, justice and interior, the military statement said.

Carroll’s kidnappers initially demanded the release of all women detainees in Iraq but later revised their demands. All the detainees released Monday were men, the military said.

The Combined Review and Release Board has reviewed the cases of more than 29,500 detainees at coalition facilities, including Abu Ghraib in Baghdad, Camp Bucca near the southern port of Umm Qasr and Fort Suse in the northern Sulaimaniyah area.

More than 15,300 have been recommended for release, the statement said.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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