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American freelance journalist abducted in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq—The Christian Science Monitor appealed Monday for the release of an American freelance contributor to the newspaper who was taken hostage in Baghdad over the weekend.

Gunmen abducted Jill Carroll, 28, and killed her Iraqi translator Saturday morning as the pair rode with their driver through a notoriously dangerous and predominantly Sunni Muslim area of the capital, the Boston-based daily reported Monday.

"Jill's ability to help others understand the issues facing all groups in Iraq has been invaluable," Christian Science Monitor Editor Richard Bergenheim said in a written statement. "We are urgently seeking information about Ms. Carroll and are pursuing every avenue to secure her release."

Carroll, a Michigan native who's worked as a journalist in Iraq since 2003, is the second American thought currently to be a hostage in Iraq. Also a captive is Tom Fox, 54, a member of a Christian peace-activist organization.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a brief statement Monday, providing no details of the U.S. government's efforts to free the hostages.

"We can confirm only that another American citizen is missing and that we have been investigating this case ... from the beginning," embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Colton said. "We condemn all such heinous acts."

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Carroll was abducted while she was on an assignment for the paper. Her driver, who escaped the incident uninjured, told the paper that the trio had gone to the al Adel district to interview a prominent Sunni politician, Adnan al-Dulaimi, at his office.

After waiting about 25 minutes for al-Dulaimi, who wasn't at the office, the three left in a single car. A group of gunmen stopped them within 300 yards of the office, pulled the driver out, got in the car and drove off with Carroll and her translator.

"One guy attracted my attention," the driver told the paper. "He jumped in front of me screaming, `Stop! Stop! Stop!' with his left hand up and a pistol in his right hand."

The body of Carroll's interpreter, Allan Enwiyah, 32, later was found in the same area, shot twice in the head, the paper reported, citing law enforcement sources.

No one is known to have claimed responsibility for the abduction. Al-Dulaimi told a Knight Ridder correspondent that he had no appointment with Carroll and knew nothing about her abduction.

One eyewitness and an Iraqi army officer with knowledge of the driver's account to Iraqi army intelligence officers provided Knight Ridder with a more detailed account of the abduction.

An Iraqi man, who didn't want to be identified for fear of retaliation, said he saw six gunmen armed with Glock pistols and traveling in two cars take Carroll and her translator. The abduction took place about 160 yards from al-Dulaimi's office, he said.

"They were very calm," he said of the gunmen.

Iraqi police and soldiers were the first forces to respond to the abduction, but not until about four hours after it occurred, he said. At that point, they set up checkpoints in the area to search for Carroll.

The Iraqi army officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk publicly about the incident, said the driver's account suggested that the gunmen had been lying in ambush for Carroll, her translator and her driver.

"It seems that they were waiting for them at some distance from Adnan al-Dulaimi's house," the officer said.

According to the driver's account, the officer said, the gunmen were in their 20s, wore civilian clothes and carried only pistols as firearms. They said little more than curses and didn't claim to be from any particular group, the officer said.

Many kidnappings in Baghdad—of Iraqis as well as foreigners—are for money rather than politics, although the motives in this case are unknown.

As a freelance journalist, Carroll wrote for a variety of news outlets, including Jordanian and Italian publications. She has written or contributed to as many as 72 articles for the Christian Science Monitor over roughly the past year.

Her subjects included Iraqi politics, U.S. Marines hunting for roadside bombs, the war's toll on everyday Iraqis and personal observations about her life and work in the world's most dangerous place for journalists.

In April she wrote about Californian Marla Ruzicka, an activist and friend to many Western journalists in Iraq, who was killed when her car was caught between a U.S. military convoy and a suicide bomber on the treacherous road to Baghdad International Airport.

Early reports on the day incorrectly indicated that Ruzicka merely had been injured in a car accident, which was a relief to journalists who'd been fearing a worse fate, Carroll later wrote. "In Baghdad's strange logic, we all thanked God that it was a car accident and not a kidnapping."


(Hannah reports for the Contra Costa Times. Knight Ridder special correspondents Huda Ahmed, Muhammed al Awsy and Zaineb Obeid contributed to this report.)


(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.