U.S. troops have arrested four Iraqi men in the kidnapping of American journalist Jill Carroll, who was freed in March after 82 days in captivity, a U.S. spokesman said Wednesday.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the four, who were not identified, were arrested in the Anbar province west of Baghdad but he did not say when. Another U.S. official, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, said the arrests were made about a month ago.
The military also said a U.S. Army helicopter crashed in Iraq’s western Anbar province Tuesday, leaving two crew members missing and four injured. It did not appear the helicopter was shot down, the military said.
The UH60 Black Hawk helicopter with six people aboard went down during a routine flight to survey the area, the U.S. command said Wednesday in a statement. The four injured troops were in stable condition.
Caldwell said Carroll, who works for the Christian Science Monitor, was held at three locations, including one about seven miles west of Fallujah before she was freed March 30.
The 28-year-old journalist was kidnapped Jan. 7 in west Baghdad and her Iraqi interpreter was shot dead. She was released near a Sunni Arab political party office in Baghdad and returned to the United States on April 2.
The breakthrough came after a Marine lieutenant from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force identified a house from intelligence reports and photographs that he had seen earlier.
“Sound intelligence was paramount here,” Caldwell said.
House where Carroll held recognized
The lieutenant and others in his unit knocked on the door of the house, asked the owner’s permission to look around and saw “very distinct features” that led them to believe it was likely one of the places Carroll had been held, Caldwell said.
The owner of the house was detained.
“After questioning that suspect, Marines identified additional locations where Jill Carroll was believed to have been held,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said Marines from the 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, went to a second location and arrested one person. Three others were arrested at yet another place north of Abu Ghraib in a raid by the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division and two hostages were freed.
During the news conference he showed a video and photographs taken by the Marines of one the homes where Carroll was believed to have been held. The house had a green gate and floral designs on its green door, while one of the rooms shown inside had little furniture besides a television, a bed, an electric fan and a water cooler.
Four of the detainees were arrested for involvement in Carroll’s kidnapping. The role of the fifth suspect was unclear. “U.S. and Iraqi authorities are currently discussing prosecutorial options and will make the determination shortly,” Caldwell said.
The Christian Science Monitor said it was aware of the announcement in Baghdad and expressed gratitude for U.S. efforts to win her release.
“Like reporters everywhere, we are reassured to hear that several of those believed to have held Jill have been apprehended,” editor Richard Bergenheim said. “The daily threat of kidnapping in Iraq remains acute for all. Everything possible needs to be done to relieve Iraqis and others of this scourge.”
Few comments so far from Carroll
The newspaper said Carroll also was “enormously grateful” for the efforts on her behalf but would not be commenting further, pending the release of a story on its Web site.
Carroll’s father, Jim, also welcomed the arrests.
“We are thankful for all the efforts made to bring these men to justice and continue to hope for the safe release of Iraqi hostages and the American hostage Jeff Ake of Indiana,” he said.
Ake, an Indiana businessman, was last seen in an April 13, 2005, video that showed him being held at gunpoint by at least three people, two days after he disappeared in Iraq.
Carroll’s kidnappers, a formerly unknown group calling themselves the Revenge Brigade, had demanded the release of all female detainees in Iraq, saying she would be killed otherwise. U.S. officials did release some female detainees but said the decision was unrelated to the demands.