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A father appeals for his daughter's life

Hostage: The Jill Carroll story, Part 4

Editor's note: The following is a content summary of Part 4 of the Jill Carroll series on The Christian Science Monitor.

A man reads an appeal for Jill Carroll's release in an Iraqi newspaper in February.

(The Christian Science Monitorexternal link) -- Exhausted, Jim Carroll walked the streets of Washington, headed back to his hotel. He'd hardly eaten all day, so he ducked into a bar for dinner. He hadn't been there long when his cell phone rang. It was the FBI. They wanted to know the family's decision -- a 72-hour deadline issued by the kidnappers was nearing.

This wasn't going to be pleasant. "We're not going your way," Jim told his FBI contact. "We're going to go with the sympathy statement."

What do you say to your daughter's kidnappers? It was a question Carroll felt woefully unqualified to answer. He was a software person, an entrepreneur, not a hostage negotiator. Insurgents had seized Jill Carroll in Baghdad 10 days ago; it was time her parents publicly plea for her life. But how? That was something on which experts -- all well-meaning -- couldn't agree.

The FBI wanted the father -- him -- to shake his fist, in essence; to go on TV and address the men who held Jill as murderers and thugs. Jill's colleagues at The Christian Science Monitor's Baghdad office thought that would misfire in the Middle East. They said the words should reflect how much Jill's family loved and missed her.

Well, Jim, Jill's mother Mary Beth and Katie, Jill's twin sister, had been over this and over this and over it again. They couldn't thrash any more.

On the other end of the phone, Jim's FBI contact sounded very unhappy. He was polite, but clear: the bureau did not think this was a good idea. Not a good idea at all.

Jim rang off. He felt he was living in a new world, where you got one percent of the data you needed to make a decision, but it didn't matter, you had to decide anyway, you couldn't walk away, and you had to do it now, right now, and the price of a misstep might be his daughter's life.

Jill's life.

Despair billowed over him.

Alone in the Al Jazeera television studio, Jim Carroll stared at the camera, aware that at any moment it would switch on and broadcast his image around the world

Finally, after a quarter of an hour, the light blipped, and, on January 20, Jill Carroll's father made his global TV debut. Live, for the 6:00 AM news feed in the Middle East.

"I want to speak directly to the men holding my daughter Jill because they also may be fathers like me," he said.

When he left the studio after finishing, the woman who had produced the shoot came up to him. Tears were running down her cheeks. "Bingo," thought Jim. His message appeared to have gotten through. Maybe other tears were running down other cheeks, right now, in Iraq.

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

Coming tomorrow: Part 5: Mujahedeen movies of attacks

Copyright 2006 The Christian Science Monitor

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