February 11, 2006 in Nation/World

U.S. journalist’s captors set Feb. 26 deadline, station owner says

Paul Garwood Associated Press
The Spokesman-Review photo

(Full-size photo)

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Kidnappers of American journalist Jill Carroll have threatened to kill her if their demands are not met by Feb. 26, the owner of a Kuwaiti TV station that has aired a new tape of the hostage said Friday.

Al Rai satellite station owner Jassem Boudai said the kidnappers set “more specific” demands than the release of all Iraqi women from prison, which the group laid down in the first videotape released last month. Boudai refused to elaborate.

He said that “sources close to the kidnappers” told the station Friday of the new deadline.

The small, privately owned station aired a tape Thursday showing Carroll, 28, appealing for her supporters to do whatever it takes to win her release “as quickly as possible.”

The U.S. military has released five Iraqi women from detention but said the releases were routine and not part of any swap for Carroll. Five Iraqi women remain in U.S. military custody.

Friday’s message was not conveyed in the latest videotape, but by “another method,” Boudai said. He did not elaborate, and it was unclear whether he passed the latest demands along to authorities.

Boudai said the sources claimed Carroll, who was abducted in Baghdad on Jan. 7, “is in a safe house owned by one of the kidnappers in downtown Baghdad with a group of women.”

He said the sources also claimed Carroll was in good psychological condition and was doing housework with the women in the place of her detention. The sources also said the kidnappers denied killing Carroll’s translator when they abducted her at gunpoint, as has previously been reported.

Later Friday, Boudai told CNN that he believed Carroll’s kidnappers were the same ones who seized two Italian aid workers in September 2004 and released them several weeks later. Italian media said a $1 million ransom was paid in that case.

Security experts said kidnappers’ choice of Al Rai for the latest tape indicated an effort to increase pressure on the U.S. government.

Al Rai broadcast the new 22-second video in its entirety and with Carroll’s voice, unlike Al-Jazeera, which has a policy not to broadcast voices. She spoke of having sent two letters but did not say to whom.

“I am with the mujahedeen,” she said. “I sent you a letter written by my hand, but you wanted more evidence, so we are sending you this letter now to prove I am with the mujahedeen.”

Some analysts said Carroll’s kidnappers used the relatively unknown station to get more of its message across and to avoid being tainted by Al-Jazeera’s reputation as being biased toward insurgents.

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