Former hostage Jill Carroll met with the staff of The Christian Science Monitor on Monday, visiting for the first time the newsroom of the paper that hired her a week after she was taken captive in Iraq.
The 28-year-old journalist had been working as a freelancer for the Boston-based newspaper when she was kidnapped in January from one of Baghdad’s most dangerous Sunni Arab neighborhoods by a group that called itself the Revenge Brigade. The newspaper added her to its staff during her 82-days in captivity. She was released Thursday and returned to the United States on Sunday.
David Cook, the Monitor’s Washington bureau chief, described Carroll’s 45-minute visit with her colleagues as “an emotional lovefest.”
The Monitor released a copy of the 6-minute video of the meeting and posted it on its Web site. The video shows her, with her relatives standing off to the side, delivering a composed but emotional “thank you” to her newsroom colleagues.
“I just want to say how much I’m overwhelmed by how wonderful the paper has been to my family,” Carroll said. “I got back from this ordeal and discovered, it’s like a humanitarian organization.”
Carroll has been in seclusion with her parents and twin sister since she arrived in Boston on Sunday.
Cook said Carroll is not yet ready to tell her story to the public.
Her kidnappers had demanded the release of all female detainees in Iraq or Carroll would be killed. U.S. officials released some female detainees, but said it had nothing to do with the demands.
Cook declined at a press conference to discuss any diplomatic maneuvers that may have led to Carroll’s release but implied there was more to the story than had been released.
“I’m not commenting on who was contacted,” Cook told a gathering of reporters outside the Monitor’s building.
He added: “We tried to contact every possible branch of our government. We also contacted governments overseas.”
A law enforcement official won’t provide details, but said a Baghdad-based hostage response team, made up of the FBI, State and Defense Departments, worked on Carroll’s case. Official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of kidnapping cases.
The FBI also helped bring Carroll’s family together for the reunion.
Monitor Editor Richard Bergenheim issued a written statement Monday praising the U.S. government’s “extensive” efforts.
“To note this while Jill was being held could have disrupted those efforts or endangered her life,” the statement read. “US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in Iraq and all the services of the United States that come under the embassy’s umbrella worked on Jill’s case with a passion.”
Bergenheim also thanked the U.S. military and the FBI, singling out director Robert Mueller.
The Pentagon declined Monday to reveal any details on what the military did to try and secure Carroll’s release.
One senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, would only say that the U.S. military was constantly trying to find her, and was trying to gather intelligence on where she was being held. The official said details would not be made public because the military would want to use some of the same methods again if a similar situation developed.