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Hostage: The Jill Carroll story

Part 1: A planned interview turns deadly

By Jill Carroll
The Christian Science Monitor

Editor's note: The following is a content summary of Part 1 of the Jill Carroll series on The Christian Science Monitor.

Journalist Jill Carroll was held hostage in Iraq for nearly three months.

(The Christian Science Monitorexternal link) -- In Baghdad, January 7, 2006, was a sunny Saturday. For me it promised to be an easy day.

Not that my life in Baghdad was easy. Freelance journalism is a tough business everywhere. But I didn't want to sit in a cubicle in the U.S. and write, as I had, about the Department of Agriculture food pyramid. Here I was living my dream of being a foreign correspondent -- even if that meant sometimes living in a hotel so seedy it was best to buy your own sheets.

First up were some routine interviews of Iraqi politicians trying to form a new government. Later, I planned to leave my virus-ridden laptop (stashed in the trunk) with a friend of my interpreter, Alan Enwiya. (Watch as Carroll relives her capture -- 2:15)

Alan was vital to my newsgathering process. In our time together we'd eked out a living freelancing for the Italian news agency ANSA, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, and now The Christian Science Monitor. We had been threatened by militia members, mobbed after Friday prayers, and seen bullets rain down from passing police vehicles. We'd walked hours though Baghdad soliciting interviews from ordinary Iraqi voters.

The first interview on our list that morning was Adnan al-Dulaimi, a Sunni politician. While there was a handful of what Western journalists considered no-go neighborhoods in Baghdad, his office wasn't in that category yet. I was dressed in a black hijab that hid my hair and Western clothes. We'd been to Mr. Dulaimi's office several times before without a problem. Our last trip had been two days earlier to set up this interview.

In retrospect, that was a fatal mistake; we had given someone 48 hours to prepare for our return.

Adnan Abbas, the Monitor's longtime driver -- who'd shared many of our harrowing experiences -- guided his maroon Toyota sedan along the familiar route to Dulaimi's office, dropping us off 20 minutes earlier than the scheduled time of 10 a.m.

"Sorry, Dr. Dulaimi has a press conference right now," the aide said. "He can't talk to you. Can you come back at 12?"

We agreed to come back later and stepped out into the bright sunny morning where Adnan was waiting for us.

Adnan had begun to pull away, but suddenly a large blue truck with red and yellow trim backed out of a driveway in front of us, completely blocking the road. Several men were standing around it, motioning to help it back out.

But in an instant they turned, trained pistols on us, and briskly approached the car.

Adnan hit the brakes, and he and Alan put their hands up. It was a routine we had become familiar with in Baghdad, where private security details often brandish weapons to clear a path for their clients.

But unlike the previous times, the men didn't lower their weapons -- and they kept advancing. The man closest to the car, a rotund person with salt-and-pepper stubble, had his gun aimed right through the windshield at Adnan.

My eyes were glued to him. I was confused about why he didn't lower his pistol. At the same time Adnan and Alan opened their doors and began to get out of the car.

The gunmen ran at us. A whisper exploded from me into a scream, "No, no, NO!" as I tried to get out. The door closed on my right ankle as someone shoved me back in, pushing so hard that the right lens of my glasses popped out. Through the crack in the door -- before the intruder slammed it -- I saw the last moment of Alan's life.

Adnan was gone. The rotund man was in the driver's seat now. Other men jumped in sandwiching me between them. We sped away, out onto the main road, then turned right.

"Jihad! Jihad! Jihad!" my abductors shouted, excited and joyful. "Jihad! Jihad!"

My captors peppered me with questions in Arabic. I played dumb, fearful they would think I understood too much and kill me.

Click hereexternal link for the entire article on The Christian Science Monitor.

Coming tomorrow: Part 2: A spy with a homing device.

Copyright 2006 The Christian Science Monitor

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