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Iraqis join chorus: Let journalist go

Imam Sheik Abu Yasser says everyone, Muslim or not, should be safe when they visit Iraq.


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Unrest, Conflicts and War

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Dozens of journalists and Western civilians have been kidnapped in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion, but few victims have commanded the Muslim sympathy that freelance writer Jill Carroll has garnered.

Carroll, an American, adhered to the social and religious customs of the land where she wrote about the plight of the people.

She was kidnapped January 7 after a failed attempt to interview an Iraqi politician in western Baghdad. Now that Sunni politician and many of his fellow Muslims and Iraqis are asking Carroll's kidnappers to let their friend go.

Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the General Conference of the Iraqi People, said Friday at a news conference carried on Arab satellite channels that Carroll's abductors should release her in the name of Allah.

Carroll reportedly had gone to his office and waited for him for 25 minutes. She was attempting to leave when kidnappers stopped her car within 300 yards of al-Dulaimi's office, according to an article published in The Christian Science Monitor, one of the papers for which Carroll worked.

Her Iraqi interpreter, Allan Enwiyah, was found dead, shot twice in the head, the newspaper said. Her Iraqi driver eluded the captors.

Carroll's kidnappers threatened Tuesday to kill her within 72 hours unless the U.S. military releases all female Iraqi prisoners.

Al-Jazeera has aired two video segments showing the reporter. In the latest, shown Thursday, Carroll is dressed in traditional Arab garb -- kneeling or sitting -- with three armed gunmen standing nearby. (Watch the footage released by the kidnappers -- 1:35)

According to the Monitor, al-Dulaimi said Friday: "I promise you again, I'll do my best to release this journalist. Kidnapping her is an act against the Iraqi people. Nobody accepts this at all."

Indeed, the consensus in Iraq, where Carroll's kidnapping has received an almost unprecedented degree of coverage from the local media, is that the journalist is a friend of Iraq.

"I feel like she is my daughter who was kidnapped, because they are all like our children," said Azza Hussein, an Iraqi citizen. "I feel like I was wounded."

Sadeq Shahid, a teacher, added, "When I heard about her abduction, I felt pain because she is my sister."

Businessman Hamid al-Zubaidi said he doesn't believe her captors are Iraqis or Muslims, and he pleaded with the kidnappers to understand that Carroll was only doing her job.

Muslims: Let Carroll go

"She's only a woman who was doing her job, showing the true image of this country, no matter if it's positive or negative," al-Zubaidi said. "All Iraqis are denouncing this terrible act."

Also joining the chorus of friends, family members -- and even strangers who feel a kinship to the 28-year-old freelancer -- are Muslim leaders, in Iraq and abroad.

Sheik Abu Yasser, a Sunni imam in Iraq, said that his nation should welcome all people, regardless of their religion.

"A human is a human no matter if he is Muslim or non-Muslim. People who are not from this country should be safe," he said.

Yasser's statement followed an announcement by the Council on American-Islamic Relations that a group of almost 50 Muslim leaders, scholars and organizations were calling for Carroll's release and that CAIR had sent a delegation to Iraq in an effort to secure her freedom.

"We, the undersigned representatives of the American Muslim community, call for the immediate and unconditional release of Jill Carroll, a journalist with a well-documented record of objective reporting and respect for both the Iraqi people and Arab-Islamic culture," CAIR said in its statement.

"We ask that her captors show mercy and compassion by releasing her so that she may return to her family. Certainly, no cause can be advanced by harming a person who only sought to let the world know about the human suffering caused by the conflict in Iraq."

Parents, groups appeal to kidnappers

Carroll's father also made an appeal to her kidnappers on Friday, telling them to "use Jill to be your voice to the world."

"I want to speak directly to the men holding my daughter Jill, because they may also be fathers like me," Jim Carroll said in the statement that aired Friday on the Arabic-language network Al-Jazeera.

"My daughter does not have the ability to free anyone. She is a reporter and an innocent person," he said. "As a father, I appeal to you to release my daughter for the betterment of all of us. And I ask the men holding my daughter to work with Jill to find a way to initiate a dialogue with me."

On Thursday, the hostage's mother, Mary Beth Carroll, publicly pleaded with the kidnappers "to release this young woman who has worked so hard to show the suffering of Iraqis to the world." (Watch mother's composed plea -- 7:35)

Carroll's friends and former co-workers said on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Thursday they hope her fluent Arabic and knowledge of the Middle East may help convince her captors to release her unharmed.

"The kidnappers who took Jill need to know that Jill is only an innocent journalist," close friend Natasha Tynes said. "She had nothing to do with the war that happened in Iraq."

"I'm hoping that her Arabic skills and her knowledge of the region will help her to survive this," the Jordanian woman said.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, former Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post, met Carroll in 2002 in Amman, Jordan, where she worked for a year before going to Iraq. As soon as Carroll arrived in the Middle East, she began studying Arabic and was determined to master it.

"It's just a devastating development," he said. "Like everybody else out there, I'm hoping and praying for her release. It underscores the dangers of working there as a journalist."

Those who have shared Carroll's experience of being kidnapped while on assignment in the Middle East say her Arabic skills could help save her. Convincing her captors that she is a reporter, and not a spy, will be important in persuading them to release Carroll, they said.

Florence Aubenas, the French journalist who was held hostage for six months last year, said she hoped Carroll's captors believe she is a journalist.

"Obviously, you have no other proof but your word, so I hope they are going to believe her, as they believed me," she said Friday.

Stephen Farrell, Jerusalem bureau chief for The Times of London, was kidnapped near Falluja, Iraq, in April 2004. He was freed, he said, after convincing his captors he was an active journalist.

"There are no rules in Iraq. You can't know what's going to happen," he said.

Regarding the demand that female Iraqi prisoners be released, the U.S. military says it has eight women in custody. Iraq's Justice Ministry said six were scheduled to be freed before the kidnappers issued demands. However, the U.S. military would not confirm that.

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