US hostage Jill Carroll freed in Iraq

US journalist Jill Carroll, released almost 12 weeks after being abducted at gunpoint in Baghdad, has appeared on Iraqi television and said she had been treated well during her ordeal.

    Carroll appeared on Baghdad Television on Thursday

    "I am happy to be free. I just want to be with my family  quickly," a composed Carroll, wearing a headscarf, on Thursday told Baghdad Television, a local channel run by the Iraqi Islamic Party at whose office she was dropped off by her captors.

    US officials voiced relief at her liberation, saying there had  been no negotiation with the kidnappers who snatched Carroll off a Baghdad street on January 7 after killing her interpreter.

    In her first interview since being released, Carroll said that during her entire period of captivity she was only allowed to move "between my room and the bathroom".

    "I was allowed to read a newspaper only once and watch the  television once just to make me aware of what was happening  outside," said the 28-year-old freelance journalist who worked for the Christian Science Monitor.

    "I had very good treatment. They never hit me. I was kept in a  safe place with nice furniture, plenty of food. I was allowed to take showers."

    Great relief

    Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, expressed "great delight and great relief" at Carroll's release, while the Monitor's editor Richard Bergenheim  said: "This is an exciting day. We couldn't be  happier."

    The US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said "no US person had made arrangement with kidnappers" for her release, adding, "by US person I mean members of the US mission here".

    Carroll: I just want to be with
    my family quickly

    He said at a press conferece in the high-security Green Zone  which houses the US embassy that Carroll was now in safe place and with "her friends in a place not far from here".

    He said she had already spoken to her father and "as I can see  she is in great spirit and in good health".

    Khalilzad that after being informed of her release "we made  arrangements for her safe transfer to a safe place with assistance from US elements".

    "There has been no formal debriefing of Carroll," the ambassador said. "We will do what she wants to do."

    Tariq al-Hashimi, the Islamic Party chief, who first announced her release, told Carroll during the television interview "do not forget the Iraqi people".

    "What the Iraqi Islamic Party is giving you today is the teaching of Islam," Hashimi said and handed Carroll a Koran, Islam's  holy book, as the camera rolled.

    Emotional appeal

    Her release came a week after US and British forces rescued three other Western hostages who had been held captive in Iraq for almost four months and followed an emotional appeal by Carroll's twin sister Katie on Wednesday.

    Carroll's captors had set numerous deadlines threatening to kill her if US-led forces failed to release all female detainees in  Iraq.

    She had appeared in three videos broadcast on Aljazeera and other Arabic channels since she was abducted.

    At least 430 foreigners are known to have been taken hostage in Iraq since the March 2003 US-led invasion, and a number of them have been killed. The hostages include around 40 US nationals, some of them Iraqi-Americans, according to the US embassy.

    SOURCE: AFP


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