Four held in journalist's kidnapping


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Marines have arrested four men suspected of kidnapping American journalist Jill Carroll and holding her captive for 82 days this year, a U.S. military spokesman told reporters yesterday.

The four suspects were detained in Al Anbar province at least a month ago, another officer said.

The military decided to release details about the arrest in advance of Carroll's coming 11-part series in the Christian Science Monitor detailing her kidnapping and captivity, spokesman Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV said during a news briefing in Baghdad.

The 28-year-old freelance reporter was grabbed in January in the Iraqi capital and freed March 30. She has since returned to the United States.

Marines believe they identified several places where Carroll was held, including one location about nine miles west of Fallujah. A lieutenant with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment noticed that the house bore resemblance to a place he had read about in intelligence reports, Caldwell said.

Marines detained the owner of a house, who led them to another location, Caldwell said. At the second home, Marines found a man believed to be a member of the Mujahedin Shura Council, an al-Qaida-affiliated group.

That suspect's information in turn led soldiers from the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division to a third house, north of the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib, where troops dismantled booby traps before freeing two Iraqi hostages. Americans also raided a fourth site, but Caldwell provided few details about it.

The names of the four men are being withheld until American and Iraqi authorities decide how to prosecute the men, according to the U.S. military.

Working as a freelancer for the Christian Science Monitor, Carroll was abducted in a western Baghdad neighborhood on Jan. 7. Gunmen ambushed the journalist and killed her translator, 32-year-old Alan Enwiyah, as the pair left the office of a prominent Sunni Arab politician.

During her captivity, Carroll was forced to appear on videotapes pleading for her life.

`I'm here. I'm fine.'

"I'm with the mujahedin," Carroll said during one recording. "I'm here. I'm fine. Please, just do whatever they want, give them whatever they want, as quickly as possible. This is a very short time. Please do it fast. That is all."

Her kidnappers, a previously unknown group calling themselves the Revenge Brigade, demanded the release of all Iraqi female prisoners. The military did release some women from detention but said the move was unrelated to Carroll's captivity.

Carroll's 11-part series, which begins Sunday night on the newspaper's Web site, will detail how she was moved more than a dozen times, lived in close contact with Sunni Arab mujahedin and was forced to "interview" her chief captor for hours at a time, according to the Web site.

The military also announced yesterday that three U.S. soldiers assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division died in Al Anbar province during the day.

Meanwhile, the search continued for two crew members from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing missing after their Black Hawk helicopter crashed Tuesday because of a technical malfunction. Four other soldiers on board were rescued.

Caldwell said the aircraft crashed in water and that dive teams had been dispatched to search for the missing crew members. It was not clear if the helicopter had gone down in a lake or the river in mostly arid Al Anbar province.

Gunmen, explosions and a suicide bomber killed 16 people around the capital yesterday.

The deaths came as morgue officials released new statistics showing that more Iraqis were killed in the Baghdad area in July than any recent month, Reuters reported. During the month, 1,815 bodies were brought to the morgue, according to the news service.

Rising death toll

The death toll in the capital has continued to mount since 2003. In June, 1,595 bodies were brought to the central morgue.

Outside the capital, an explosion near a mosque killed four people in Baqubah, about 40 miles from Baghdad. In northern Iraq near Kirkuk, a roadside bomb exploded, killing two brothers. In the city itself, police recovered a beheaded body. In the southern city of Basra, gunmen assassinated one man.

Louise Roug writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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