Al-Jazeera aired a new videotape Monday of kidnapped U.S. journalist Jill Carroll, showing her wearing a headscarf and weeping as she purportedly appealed for the release of female Iraqi prisoners.
The video is dated Saturday, two days after the U.S. military released five Iraqi women detainees. U.S. officials said the release had nothing to do with the kidnappers’ demands.
Carroll’s face is visible in the footage, encircled by a conservative Islamic veil that covers her hair, neck and shoulders. She is sobbing as she speaks to the camera, sitting in front of a yellow and black tapestry.
The video had no sound, but the Al-Jazeera newscaster said Carroll appealed to the U.S. military and the Iraqi Interior Ministry to free all women in their prisons and said this “would help in winning her release.”
The U.S. military released five Iraqi women last Thursday and were believed to be holding several more. It was unclear how many women were held by Iraqi authorities.
A senior State Department official told NBC News that “prisoner reviews are on-going; we do them every couple of days.” A senior Pentagon official said the U.S. holds “less than 5” Iraqi women now.
First sighting since deadline passed
If the date is correct, it would be the first sighting of Carroll since a Jan. 20 deadline her captors set in an earlier video, threatening to kill her if all Iraqi women weren’t released from U.S. and Iraqi prisons. The deadline passed with no word on her fate amid widespread calls from Iraqi and Islamic leaders for her to be freed.
At one point, Carroll’s cracking voice can be heard from behind the newscaster’s voice. All that can be heard is Carroll saying, “... hope for the families....” Al-Jazeera did not report that the video set any deadline or include any threats.
A senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to NBC News’ Kevin Corke, said the U.S. will continue to do everything possible to see that Carroll is released and safely returned to her family.
NBC News also reported that a State Department official said “we won’t have anything new to say” on the most recent tape and given the sensitive nature of hostage cases, cannot offer any specifics on what is being done to secure Carroll’s release.
“We don’t concede to terrorist demands,” the official said.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Monday the U.S. military is hunting for Carroll, and Iraqi army officials said they are conducting house-to-house searches in the Baghdad area to locate her.
Al-Jazeera did not report that any deadline was set in the video or that it included a threat to kill Carroll. The name of the group that has claimed responsiblity for Carroll’s abduction, the Revenge Brigades, appeared in the top left corner of the video.
Al-Jazeera editor Yasser Thabit said the station received the tape Monday afternoon and that it was between two to three minutes long, but only a fraction of the footage was shown.
Pleas to American people
Thabit said Carroll also made pleas to her family, friends and all American people to pressure U.S. and Iraqi authorities to release all Iraqi women in detention.
Armed men abducted Carroll, a 28-year-old freelance reporter for The Christian Science Monitor, on Jan. 7 in Baghdad.
On Jan. 17, Al-Jazeera aired a video released by the Revenge Brigades showing Carroll — her head bare and her long straight brown hair parted in the middle — and setting the Jan. 20 deadline.
That tape also was aired without sound. Al-Jazeera editors said their policy was to air such videos without audio because the voice was too upsetting for viewers and that the newscasters report the videos’ content.
The reporter’s parents have made repeated televised pleas for their daughter’s release. A Washington-based American Islamic advocacy group flew to Baghdad to drum up support for Carroll, and Islamic leaders from Iraq to Paris have called for her freedom.
Kidnapped in dangerous area
Carroll was abducted in one of Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhoods while being driven to meet a Sunni Arab politician, who failed to appear for the interview. Carroll’s translator was killed, but her driver escaped.
More than 200 foreigners and thousands of Iraqis have been abducted in the anarchy that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Most foreign hostages have been released, but 54 are known to have been killed; more than 50 are still believed to be held.
Muslims from Iraq to France have called for the release of the journalist, who has reported on the suffering of Iraqis living under U.S. occupation amid a raging insurgency fanned mostly by Sunni Arab militants.
Carroll grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., and graduated from the University of Massachusetts. She worked as a reporting assistant for The Wall Street Journal before moving to Jordan and launching her freelance career in 2002, learning Arabic along the way. Most recently, she was working for The Christian Science Monitor.