American Reporter Kidnapped in Baghdad

Jill Carroll, a freelance American reporter, was kidnapped Saturday morning when gunmen ambushed her car and killed her translator in western Baghdad.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

In this part of the program, two journalists tried to learn the story of Iraq and became the story themselves. One was kidnapped; the other was detained. They had experiences faced by many people in Iraq in the midst of war.

MONTAGNE: The first journalist we'll talk about is Jill Carroll. She's an American who writes for The Christian Science Monitor, and she's the first American female journalist kidnapped in Iraq. She was abducted last weekend as she left the offices of a Sunni Arab politician where she'd gone in hopes of an interview. Jill Carroll is the 31st journalist to be kidnapped in Iraq, according to Reporters Without Borders. More than 400 foreigners have been abducted there since the start of the war. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro joins us on the line now from Baghdad.

Good morning.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO reporting:

Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Lourdes, what do you know about how Jill Carroll was abducted?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We know that it was Saturday morning. Jill was on her way back from a meeting with Adnan al-Dulaimi(ph), a leading Sunni Arab politician. He lives in the Adel district, an extremely dangerous part of town. They apparently had a 10 AM appointment, he didn't show up, and after 25 minutes, they left. About 300 yards from the house, a group of men carrying pistols told the car to stop, and then the driver was dragged out of the car; the gunmen jumped in and drove off with Jill and her translator. Her translator was apparently shot twice in the head, his body dumped on the street. According to the driver, he was shot at, but he got away unharmed. I spoke to him yesterday, and he said it seemed a professional job that was quick and organized.

Now no one has claimed responsibility thus far, and Dulaimi, the politician she was supposedly going to meet, said he had no appointment with her. As I mentioned, this is a dangerous area. This is an area where the head of CARE, Margaret Hassan, if you will remember, was abducted. It's also where she was taken and then, of course, she was sadly killed. This is also a place where the Sunni Muslim Scholars Association is headquartered. And just after Jill Carroll's abduction, the US military raided their offices to, I must say, great protest by that organization. According to the AP, that raid was in response to the abduction, so there are a lot of things going on at the moment to try and find her.

MONTAGNE: Now she was clearly moving about a bit freely there, more so than we understand some reporters can move about. What do you know about Jill Carroll?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, Jill was a free-lancer. She moved to the Middle East before the war. She worked in Amman. I think what makes her distinctive is that she did go out regularly. She did go out in a single car. She dressed as a local, covered in the abaya from head to toe. Most journalists here do go out with a certain level of security; they at least have a chase car, meaning a car that follows you in case you are abducted, who can try and prevent that from happening or at least be able to tell the story of where you were taken. So she did go out with a level of security that was pretty low, considering the situation in Iraq at the moment.

MONTAGNE: And she was kidnapped on Saturday, but word of her abduction didn't come until yesterday. What was the delay all about?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, there was a media blackout at the request of The Christian Science Monitor and the family. They felt--and indeed it was the advice of the security company that's been helping to locate her--that the first few days after the kidnapping, it's important to keep a low profile. The idea goes that a lot of media attention could make the person appear more valuable or make the kidnappers want to keep them more. There is, I have to say, another school of thought that believes that the sooner the alarm is raised and public pressure brought to bear, the better. But, you know, there's no good way of dealing with this, and it was the decision of The Christian Science Monitor and the family to try and keep this as quiet as possible for as long as possible, to see if they could find out who indeed had abducted her.

MONTAGNE: And does this particular kidnapping say something new about the climate not just for journalists but also foreigners in Iraq right now?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I don't know if it says anything new, but--and not only just for foreigners but for all Iraqis. I mean, the translator was shot dead. Many more Iraqis are abducted than foreigners here; some of those end up dead if they can't pay their ransom. There's a real climate of lawlessness here. And I think that what Jill Carroll's abduction shows is that that continues, and it has sent, I have to say, a shiver of fear throughout the journalistic community here because the space in which journalists can operate here seems to get ever tighter, and that is certainly the message that Jill Carroll's abduction has sent, at least to journalists working in Baghdad right now.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Baghdad, thanks very much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you.

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