At one of the most desperate moments of her captivity in Iraq, fearing she was about to be beheaded, reporter Jill Carroll pleaded with one of her captors for a quick death by pistol, saying: “I don’t want the knife.”
In her first public account of her 82-day hostage ordeal, Carroll said she had feared the worst when her captors said they planned to use her in a second propaganda video. The kidnappers, however, seemed confused when she made her request and said they didn’t plan to kill her.
Carroll describes the terror she felt, even at times when her captors were civil to her, in the first segment of an 11-part series on the kidnapping. It was published Sunday on the Web site of The Christian Science Monitor, where she is a staff writer.
Carroll said within hours of her abduction at gunpoint in Baghdad, she was taken to two homes, dressed in new clothes, fed a chicken and rice meal and invited to watch television with the family of one of her captors.
“They all seemed concerned that I think they were good, or at least that they were treating me well,” Carroll wrote.
“It sounds hospitable. But in my mind every second was a test — the choice of food, TV program, everything — and they would kill me if I gave the wrong answer.”
The 28-year-old journalist was kidnapped Jan. 7 and her Iraqi interpreter, Alan Enwiya, was shot dead. She was released near a Sunni Arab political party office in Baghdad 82 days later and returned to the United States on April 2.
The Web site also contains video clips of Carroll describing her abduction, detention and survival. It’s the first time Carroll, who was a freelance writer when she was abducted, has told her story.
“In the first few minutes after my abduction, my captors peppered me with questions in Arabic,” she wrote. “I played dumb, fearful that they would think I understood too much and kill me.”
She said her kidnappers, a previously unknown group calling itself the Revenge Brigade, took her to two different homes on the first day, starting with a tiny, three-room house in Baghdad’s outskirts.
“It was a poor place, built of cinder blocks. My captors gave me a new set of clothes, and I changed in the bathroom while the stern-faced woman of the house looked on.”
At the second home, she was questioned about her job, religion, whether anyone in her family drank alcohol and whether her computer had a device to signal the government or military, she recalled.
“Then in a slightly gravelly voice, the interpreter explained the situation,” she said.
Her kidnappers wanted all female detainees in Iraq to be freed, and threatened to kill Carroll if they weren’t. U.S. officials did release some women but said the decision was unrelated to the demands.
Carroll said she was offered food and invited to watch television with the family of one of her kidnappers.
“How do you channel surf with the mujahideen? I asked myself that question as I flipped from one show to another, trying to act casual. Politics was out. News was out. Anything that might show even a flash of skin was out. Finally, I found Channel 1 from Dubai, and Oprah was on.”
Carroll, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts who grew up in Michigan, was moved at least a dozen times during her captivity, according to an introduction to the series.
She attracted a huge amount of sympathy during her ordeal, and a wide variety of groups in the Middle East, including the Islamic militant group Hamas, appealed for her release.
Last week, the Pentagon announced that U.S. troops had arrested four Iraqi men in connection to her kidnapping.
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