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WORLD
Iraq Transition

Newspaper making 'strenuous efforts' to free reporter

Driver who escaped says kidnapping was 'perfect ambush'

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American journalist Jill Carroll, who has been working in Iraq since 2003, was kidnapped January 7.

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BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- With the kidnappers' Friday deadline looming, the newspaper for which abducted American journalist Jill Carroll works said Wednesday that it is "availing itself of every option we can think of to secure her release."

"The Monitor is undertaking strenuous efforts on Jill's behalf, taking advantage of every opportunity we have at our disposal," said David Cook, senior editor of The Christian Science Monitor. "You can be sure that people at the Monitor are working on this night and day in a variety of cities around the world."

Cook declined to elaborate, saying only that the paper had not been in contact with any group claiming responsibility for the kidnapping. (Watch Cook, others talk about Carroll's plight -- 2:22)

The White House also stepped into the fray Wednesday and announced that Carroll's safe release is an administration priority.

The Bush administration has said repeatedly it will not negotiate with terrorists, and spokesman Scott McClellan would not elaborate on the White House announcement, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

"Any time there is an American held hostage, it is a priority for the administration," McClellan said. "Her safe return is a priority, and that's what we all want to see."

Carroll's kidnappers threatened to kill her unless the United States releases all female Iraqi prisoners within 72 hours, the Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera said after airing a video of her Tuesday. (Watch the footage released by the kidnappers -- 1:35)

Carroll, 28, was on assignment for The Christian Science Monitor when she was abducted January 7.

The Boston, Massachusetts-based newspaper reported that Carroll, her driver and her interpreter went to the western Baghdad office of Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi for an interview, but he was not there.

As the three drove away, their car was stopped by her abductors. The interpreter was killed, Carroll was kidnapped and the driver got away.

"It was a setup, a perfect ambush," the driver told the Monitor.

Pleas from far and near

Carroll has been in Iraq since October 2003 and has worked for numerous publications during that time, including the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Italian news wire Ansa.

She has earned the respect of many of her colleagues, who joined her family in urging Carroll's abductors to release her.

Jackie Spinner of The Washington Post, to which Carroll has contributed, said the freelance writer worked tirelessly to report the events in Iraq and she respected Iraqi customs, always speaking Arabic -- never English -- when in public and always wearing a head scarf when she went out.

"She wanted to be there. She felt that her fate was there. Those were the very words that she used: 'My fate is in Iraq,' " Spinner said.

The Jordan Times, where Carroll worked before the Iraq war, ran an editorial titled "Our Jill."

Carroll worked at the newspaper for a year, "long enough for anyone who would come across her to be convinced beyond any doubt of her genuine interest in the Middle East, her sincere admiration for Arab culture and utmost respect for the Arab people," the editorial stated, adding, "The kidnappers who abducted her could not have chosen a more wrong target."

The Monitor's Cook and the Council on American-Islamic Relations also joined the family in pleading for her release.

During the Wednesday news conference, Cook said Carroll once wrote that she was going to Baghdad because she could "do more good there than in the U.S. explaining the difficult issues facing the people of the Middle East."

"It would be wrong to murder someone who has devoted herself unselfishly to promoting understanding of the Iraqi people," Cook said. (Watch Cook make a plea to Carroll's captors -- 8:49)

Added a written CAIR statement: "Journalists must be free to report on conflicts worldwide without fear of being targeted by combatants.

"We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Jill Carroll and for the release of all hostages held in Iraq," the statement said. "No cause can be served by harming those who only seek to convey the human suffering caused by war."

Carroll's family attempted to appeal to the captors Tuesday, saying that she has made many friends during her time in Iraq.

"Jill is a kind person whose love for Iraq and the Iraqi people are evident in her articles. She has been welcomed into the homes of many Iraqis and shown every courtesy," the family said in a statement signed by her parents, Jim and Mary Beth, and her twin sister, Katie. "From that experience, she understands the hardships and suffering that the Iraqi people face every day. Jill is a friend and sister to many Iraqis and has been dedicated to bringing the truth of the Iraq war to the world."

"Jill is an innocent journalist, and we respectfully ask that you please show her mercy and allow her to return home to her mother, sister and family," the family said.

Silent video shows tired Carroll

In the video, Carroll seems tired and speaks briefly, but no sound is heard. She appears in front of a white background, her long, dark hair parted in the middle and pulled behind her ears.

Al-Jazeera repeated Tuesday that it condemns all forms of violence against journalists and asked that Carroll be let go. The U.S. State Department also has asked that she and other hostages be released unharmed.

Al-Jazeera released no details on how it obtained the video, which it said came from her kidnappers.

On its English-language Web site, the Qatar-based network said the abductors identified themselves as members of a previously unknown group called the Brigades of Vengeance. (Watch first images of American hostage -- 1:35)

No one previously had claimed responsibility for the abduction.

The U.S. military said Wednesday that of the 14,000 people it has detained in Iraq, eight are women.

Earlier, an Iraqi Justice Ministry spokesman said that the U.S. military has arrested up to 10 women and six of those were scheduled for release in coming days, a development unrelated to the kidnappers' demands.

Carroll grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is an avid swimmer and competed once in a triathlon. She began her journalism career at the University of Massachusetts, where she graduated with a journalism degree in 1999.

She is the 35th journalist to be taken hostage in Iraq since the war began, according to the French advocacy group, Reporters Sans Frontieres. Another group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, puts the number at 36, six of whom have been killed.

"We appeal to the press of the entire world, especially in the Arab countries, to speak out in support of Carroll," Reporters Sans Frontieres said in a written statement. "We remind Carroll's kidnappers that she is a journalist who has just done her job, which is to describe the conditions in which Iraqis are living. She is not responsible for the U.S. government's decisions."

According to The Christian Science Monitor, senior members of a powerful Islamic political group denounced the kidnapping, saying that targeting innocent civilians -- Iraqi or foreign -- "contradicts the principles of our religion and doesn't help the cause of liberating the country."

"Jill ... and her colleagues have come to Iraq to report the events to the world, reminding everyone of the hardships faced by the Iraqi people under occupation," said Essam al-Aryan and Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. "Once more, we call upon our brothers in the Iraqi resistance not to target media workers."

Another kidnapping in Iraq ended peacefully Wednesday.

The sister of Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr was freed, the ministry said. Jabr's sister was taken January 3; one of her bodyguards was killed in the abduction.

Her captors also had demanded that female Iraqi prisoners be let go, among other conditions.

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