Wednesday, January 11, 2006

KCTV5 - Search continues for American reporter missing in Iraq

As first reported Jill is Still Missing

KCTV5 - Search continues for American reporter missing in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq The search continues for an American journalist kidnapped over the weekend in Iraq.

Jill Carroll is a freelance reporter on assignment for The Christian Science Monitor. She was seized Saturday in one of the most dangerous parts of Baghdad. Gunmen ambushed her car and killed her translator. Police say Carroll was on her way to a meeting with a Sunni Arab politician.

After initial reports of the kidnapping, The Associated Press and other news organizations honored a request from the newspaper and a journalists' group in Baghdad for a news blackout. The request was made to give authorities an opportunity to try to resolve the incident during the early hours after the abduction.

No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction.

Please note the highlighted words. While watching the actual video of this report, the news caster said that Jill went to Dulaimi's office to try to arrange a meeting, not that one was already planned.

As in all things, the first reports are often wrong. The first reports indicated, not only that she already had a meeting arranged, but that she was stood up, had waited 25 minutes to try to meet him and then left, giving the impression that someone in Dulaimi's office might have set her up. With this new news, it is more likely that she fell victim as many others had: she was known, she'd been followed and they had 20 minutes while she was in the office to set up the street where she was grabbed.

More information from Christopher Allbriton who also wrote a blog called Iraq 3.0 (as in his third trip there and he and I had several rousing debates last year about the war):

When Jill Carroll, 28, a Baghdad-based freelancer for the Christian Science Monitor was kidnapped on Saturday, the tightly knit community of reporters in the Iraqi capital knew of the abduction within hours. But in an almost unprecedented move, media organizations in Baghdad— Arabic and English alike—kept a lid on the news in hopes that a media blackout would give negotiators and rescuers time to win her release. For two days it mostly held, to the point where early reports mentioning her affiliation with the Christian Science Monitor were pulled from Web pages. A blog kept by her sister called “Lady of Arabia,” which detailed many of Carroll’s exploits in Baghdad, was pulled down.

“It wasn't just U.S. media, there were various Italian agencies that ran with a lot of details, and a Kuwaiti news agency that ran with it, they all pulled it down,” the Monitor’s managing editor, Marshall Ingwerson, told Editor & Publisher. “Basically, everyone who ran with it, once we reached them, was cooperative. I was surprised and very heartened that people were so willing to help us.”

Including blogs. We might not always like what the media writes, but antipathy stops at the kidnappers' door, so yes, I deleted comments here about her name until we got the all clear, even though I felt we should get the info out ASAP in case a citizen had seen anything. However, it's hard to tell if the same process (like amber alert) that works here goes in Iraq, so I complied.

Slate talks about why the media blackout is asked and, in the process, finally gives an explanation about how the media works on these issues. Something we are always asking about, but it took the unfortunate kidnapping of Ms. Carroll to bring it about:

Returning to the Carroll case, starving her kidnappers of information might save her life. However, that's also true in the case of a domestic abduction, and not many reporters would withhold the news of a kidnapping for very long based on that rationale. No group has yet claimed credit for taking Carroll, leaving the abduction's purpose murky. It could be that she was seized by vicious opportunists, who observed her waiting for an appointment in a tough part of the Baghdad without any bodyguards.

If Carroll's grabbing was a pure ransom play, planned meticulously in advance, the silence may buy time for a transfer of money or for a rescue. If the intent of the kidnappers was pure terror, the blackout may have convinced the insurgents that they got a nobody who won't produce much in the way of publicity for them, prompting them to release her. On the other hand, it's possible the kidnappers have gamed out all these variables in advance and may be content to wait until the Western press confirms Carroll's identity before issuing—or even formulating—their demands. Those demands could, of course, escalate if the kidnappers were to suddenly make a connection between Carroll and the "Christian" Science Monitor.

And, I'm not the only one that was worried about her affiliation with CSM:

There was fear that her affiliation with a paper with the word “Christian” in the title might cause her captors to treat her harshly. After two days however, the Monitor ran a story of its own and other media organizations followed suit. “Jill worked for a lot of newspapers and media from many countries,” Ingwerson told E&P. “She is not a Monitor staffer.”

Well, she isn't. She's a free lance writer whose stories were often bought by CSM. I hope, if her kidnappers read this, they understand that a free lance reporter writes and sells to whoever will buy it and print it.

In other news, as previously reported, a raid took place on a local mosque that has long been suspected of ties with the insurgents. Shortly after that, Sunni's began to protest against the raid

"The attack on the Umm al-Qura mosque is an attack on Muslims and Islam," read one of the banners at the protest, according to Agence France-Press (AFP).

The United Nations also criticized the U.S. operation, saying it could hinder efforts to build a political consensus.

The mosque is in the Adel neighborhood, where Ms. Carroll was seized.

The U.S. military told Agence France Presse that the raid was linked to the hunt for Carroll. Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman, said the raid was ordered "as a direct result of a tip by an Iraqi civilian that activities related to the kidnapping were being carried out inside the mosque."[snip]

"Both Iraqi and coalition forces raided the mosque in the early morning hours in order to minimize the impact on worshipers and the surrounding neighborhood," Johnson told AFP Tuesday. Six people were detained for questioning, he added.

The Association of Muslim Scholars, which is based at the mosque, confirmed that one of its members, Yunis Aikali, and five mosque guards were arrested in the raid. The Association accused U.S. soldiers of desecrating the mosque and carrying away files containing the names of members.

It's hard to tell who's who and what is what, but the Association of Muslim Scholars is a Sunni cleric group that has been directly linked to the insurgents and has a history of being able to "negotiate" with kidnappers to free their victims.

And, I notice that these folks aren't to worried about whether the gunmen used the mosque to wait for and make a quick plan to catch Ms. Carroll, nor are they in too fired hurry to give information that might help rescue her since the attack took place in broad daylight.

I might also note that the Association of Muslim Scholars is associated with the Accord Front as well so I am still not certain that the Dulaimi interview of this story has been completely cleared. Stay tune for more information.

To the kidnappers of Jill Carroll. Please release her and let her return to her family. She is no threat to you and has been fair in her reporting. She has always loved and cared about the Iraqi people. Please let her return so she can do her job and tell their story.

To the readers of this site, please say a prayer for the safe return of Ms. Carroll.

Thank you.

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