Police search for kidnapped American journalist

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi police were searching Monday for an American journalist who was kidnapped over the weekend when gunmen ambushed her car and killed her translator in one of Baghdad’s most dangerous neighbourhoods.
Jill Carroll, a freelancer for The Christian Science Monitor, was kidnapped Saturday in Baghdad’s predominantly Sunni Arab Adel neighbourhood. The newspaper said her driver reported that she had just left the offices of a Sunni Arab politician.

Gen. Mahdi Gharawi, commander of the interior ministry’s public order forces, said Monday an investigation was under way.

“The ministry is working on this issue and investigations and searches are under way. We are gathering information through our sources and we cannot say more,” Gharawi said.

A statement by the newspaper said Carroll, 28, was on assignment for The Christian Science Monitor when she was abducted. The paper said no one had claimed responsibility.

The paper said she was “an established journalist who has been reporting from the Middle East for Jordanian, Italian and other news organisations over the past three years.” “The Monitor joins Jill’s colleagues — Iraqi and foreign — in the Baghdad press in calling for her immediate and safe release.”

“Jill’s ability to help others understand the issues facing all groups in Iraq has been invaluable. We are urgently seeking information about Ms. Carroll and are pursuing every avenue to secure her release,” said Monitor Editor Richard Bergenheim.

After initial reports of the kidnapping on Saturday, the Associated Press and other news organisations honoured a request from the newspaper in Boston and a journalists’ group in Baghdad for a news blackout. The request was made to give authorities an opportunity to resolve the incident during the early hours after the abduction.

At the time of the kidnapping, police Maj. Falah Mohamadawi said Carroll’s translator, identified on a US-issued press card as Alan John Ghazi, told police before he died that he and Carroll were meeting a Sunni Arab politician, Adnan Dulaimi, the leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front. However, the newspaper identified the translator as Allan Enwiyah, 32.

The neighbourhood is one of Baghdad’s roughest and has been the site of numerous attacks against US and Iraqi troops and security forces. It is also home to the Umm Qura Mosque, headquarters of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a major Sunni clerical group. The mosque was raided by US troops shortly before dawn Sunday.

The military said the raid came after a tip from an Iraqi citizen that there was “significant terrorist related activity in the building,” and six people were detained.

The association is believed to have ties to some insurgent groups.

The Monitor said that her driver saw a group of men approaching the car shortly after they had left Dulaimi’s offices.

“I saw a group of people coming as if they had come from the sky,” the driver was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “One guy attracted my attention. He jumped in front of me screaming, ‘Stop! Stop! Stop!’ with his left hand up and a pistol in his right hand.” The newspaper reported that one of the kidnappers pulled the driver from the car, jumped in, and drove away with several others huddled around Carroll and her interpreter.

“They didn’t give me any time to even put the car in neutral.” The interpreter’s body was later found in the same neighbourhood, the newspaper said, and he had been shot twice in the head.

The Monitor said that the kidnapping occurred within 300 metres of the office of Dulaimi office. Carroll had intended to interview Dulaimi at 10:00am, the newspaper quoted the driver as saying.

Dulaimi was not there and 25 minute later, Carroll left. At the time, Dulaimi was at a news conference in another location in Baghdad near the heavily fortified Green Zone.

“It was very obvious this was by design,” the driver was quoted by the newspaper as saying. He requested that he not be named, the newspaper said. “The whole operation took no more than a quarter of a minute. It was very highly organised. It was a setup, a perfect ambush.” Carroll moved to Jordan six months before the Iraq war started “to learn as much about the region as possible before the fighting began,” she wrote in the February/March edition of American Journalism Review.

“All I ever wanted to be was a foreign correspondent,” she wrote last year in the magazine. “It seemed the right time to try to make it happen.” Carroll noted that in the months after the war began “kidnappings and beheadings increased, and Western reporters became virtual prisoners in their hotel rooms.” Carroll is described as an aggressive reporter but was careful, Monitor Managing Editor Marshall Ingwerson said.

“She’s a very professional, straight-up, fact-oriented reporter,” Ingwerson said.

Carroll, who speaks some Arabic but uses a translator, also has written from Iraq for US News and World Report, other publications, and an Italian news agency. She’s also been interviewed by National Public Radio.

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