Carroll walks unharmed into Sunni party office
Ex-hostage says she was 'treated very well' during 3-month ordeal
Jill Carroll appears in an interview Thursday on Iraqi television shortly after her release.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Nearly three months after she was abducted in Baghdad, American journalist Jill Carroll walked into the office of a Sunni Arab political party Thursday and asked if she could call the U.S. Embassy, an official with the Iraqi Islamic Party said.
That's how the 28-year-old freelancer emerged unharmed from her ordeal. During that time, she had appeared in videotapes from captors, the Brigades of Vengeance, saying little time was left for the United States to free all of its female prisoners in Iraq or she would be killed.
Carroll entered the Iraqi Islamic Party offices in western Baghdad around midday Thursday and handed office personnel a letter, thought to be from her kidnappers, asking for help, a party official said.
Shortly afterward, Carroll told Baghdad Television -- which the Sunni party owns -- that she was "treated very well" while being held captive.
"They never said they would hit me. They never threatened me in any way," she told an interviewer. (Watch Carroll describe life as a hostage, including eating and showering -- 2:27)
Wearing glasses and a hijab scarf, she said, "They allowed me once to see TV. They also allowed me once to read the paper, but it wasn't enough to know what's going on in the outside world."
Throughout her ordeal, she said, "I was allowed to move in a small space."
Carroll also said that she didn't know where she was held because the room had a frosted window.
During the TV interview, Carroll said she didn't know how she regained her freedom. "They just came to me this morning and told me they will release me," she said.
The Iraqi Islamic Party official said her morale appeared to be high and she looked healthy. After people in the office identified her, she was moved to the party's nearby main compound.
Carroll talked to her family by phone.
Around 2:30 p.m., officials from the Washington Post and the embassy arrived for Carroll, and she departed with them.
Carroll is now at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, according to a source at The Christian Science Monitor, the newspaper for which she was working when she was abducted January 7.
Law enforcement officials and relatives said Carroll's family won't go to the Iraqi capital but will wait to greet the journalist when she returns to the United States -- which is expected within 24 to 48 hours.
Carroll has met with Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, who said she "appears in good health and in great spirits."
A U.S. government official said he did not know if any money was given for Carroll's release, but there had been talk of a possible ransom.
However, Khalilzad denied that "U.S. personnel made any arrangements" with abductors in connection with the reporter's release.
David Cook, the Monitor's Washington bureau chief, said no ransom was paid for Carroll's release.
"We paid no money, the family has assured us that it paid no money and the United States ambassador in Iraq today said that they paid no money, so our impression is that no money was paid to make this happen," Cook said.
A U.S. government official said that a hostage negotiation group in Baghdad -- with officials from the State and Defense departments, FBI and CIA -- worked extensively on Carroll's case, as it does with other kidnappings. (Watch a special FBI unit involved in the case -- 2:05)
The official said agencies involved in the effort to free hostages always are looking "to creatively communicate a humanitarian message to captors" and that a common tactic is to use family members to make such appeals.
Carroll's twin sister, Katie, appeared on television Wednesday, pleading for her sibling's release.
Carroll's kidnappers had demanded the release of all female prisoners in Iraq in U.S. custody. Five women have been freed, with the U.S. military saying those releases already were planned.
"We still have a few female detainees," Khalilzad said, adding that none of Carroll's captors was in custody.
'Hi, Dad. This is Jill. I'm released'
Reaction to the news of Carroll's freedom was swift. President Bush, traveling in Mexico for a North American summit, told reporters he was pleased.
"I'm just really grateful she was released, and I want to thank those who worked hard to release her, and we're glad she's alive," Bush said.
Her father, Jim Carroll, said he was asleep at his North Carolina home when the telephone rang about 6 a.m. ET. The voice on the other end of the line said simply, "Hi Dad. This is Jill. I'm released." (Full story)
Carroll said he first saw images of his daughter in video that aired on television. He said he and his family are "thrilled and relieved that Jill has been released unharmed." (Watch the journalist's dad thank media coverage -- 2:37)
In a written statement, Carroll's family expressed gratitude for the support of the Iraqi people, "who have shown the world a deep compassion for Jill's situation." (Watch Carroll family's elation over her release -- 1:15)
Other journalists held hostage
On the day of her abduction, Carroll, who has been reporting from the Middle East for three years, was planning to meet with Iraqi politician Adnan al-Dulaimi for an interview in Baghdad, but he was not there, according to the Monitor, which later interviewed her driver.
As Carroll, her driver and an interpreter attempted to leave, their vehicle was stopped by insurgents, the paper reported. (Full story)
The driver escaped the abduction unharmed. The interpreter, Allan Enwiyah, 32, was found dead nearby, shot twice in the head, the newspaper said, citing law enforcement officials.
With Carroll's release, three journalists remain captive in Iraq, according to Lynn Tehini of Reporters Without Borders, a journalism advocacy group.
Many other people also remain in captivity, including U.S. businessman Jeffrey Ake, who was kidnapped in the capital last April.
A U.S. military official in Baghdad said Thursday he sees a tie between terrorist activity and "a rash of kidnappings" off the streets of Iraq.
"We have reason to believe and evidence to support that the terrorists and foreign fighters are, indeed, using kidnapping as a way to finance their operations," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch.
Carroll's release came a week after three abducted Christian aid workers were freed in a coalition military operation in western Baghdad, and days after the rescue of a hostage in Baghdad's Sadr City.
On Monday and Tuesday, at least 35 people were kidnapped at Baghdad businesses. "We do have a sense that kidnapping is on the rise," Lynch said.
CNN's Susan Garraty, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Nic Robertson, Auday Sadik, Mike Mount, Joe Sterling, Jason Carroll and Deb Krajnak contributed to this report.
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