American journalist Jill Carroll, released by her Iraqi captors after 82 days, will begin her journey home as soon as possible, her editor at The Christian Science Monitor said Friday.
The 28-year-old reporter is “emotionally fragile” but doing well after her Thursday release, said Richard Bergenheim, editor of the Boston-based newspaper.
“Yesterday was way too soon. I think they’re investigating whether she could leave today,” he told NBC’s “Today” show. “But her family wants to make sure that she’s strong enough, emotionally and otherwise, to take this step.”
Carroll’s mother, Mary Beth Carroll, declined to discuss the timing or location of the reunion when reached by phone Friday morning at her Evanston, Ill., home.
Jill Carroll was dropped off on a Baghdad street near a Sunni political office around midday Thursday. She said she was not harmed by her captors, and that they allowed her to shower and eat regularly. She said she did not know why she was released.
“They just came to me and said, ’OK, we’re letting you go now.’ That’s all,” she said in an interview on Baghdad television, her voice strong and calm.
Warned not to go to Americans
The Monitor reported Friday that shortly before her release, her kidnappers warned her not to talk to the U.S. or go to the heavily fortified Green Zone.
They said it was "infiltrated by the Mujahideen" and she might be killed if she cooperated with the Americans, her family said.
Though reluctant to go when U.S. military arrived at the office to take her there, another Monitor staff member convinced her it was the best course of action, the newspaper said.
In a video purportedly from her kidnappers that was posted on the Internet, her abductors said Carroll was released because “the American government met some of our demands by releasing some of our women from prison.” The video was found on an Islamic Web site where such material has appeared before.
But U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Thursday there was no connection between the recent release of several female Iraqi detainees and Carroll’s freedom.
“What we did before had no connection with Jill Carroll,” Khalilzad said. “We still have a few female detainees — four — and that’s all I can say on that.”
Monitor editor Bergenheim said that neither the Monitor nor Carroll’s family was involved in negotiations for her release. Her captors, calling themselves the Revenge Brigades, had demanded the release of all women detainees in Iraq by Feb. 26 and said Carroll would be killed if that didn’t happen. The deadline passed without word of her safety.
“Neither we, nor the family, nor anyone that we know of were involved with negotiations. This really was a bolt out of the blue,” Bergenheim told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Emotional phone call
Her twin sister, Katie Carroll, described in The Christian Science Monitor the wake-up call she got Thursday morning. The caller ID showed it was coming from Iraq.
“Katie, it’s me,” said the voice on the other end of the line. “I’m free.”
“Then she burst into tears and I did, too,” Katie Carroll said.
Jill Carroll was the fourth Western hostage to be freed in eight days. On March 23, U.S. and British soldiers freed Briton Norman Kember, 74, and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, from a house west of Baghdad. But a fourth member of the Christian Peacemakers Teams group held hostage, American Tom Fox, was killed earlier.