Jill Carroll, described as “emotionally fragile,” went reluctantly to Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone ? the place her captors had warned her was infiltrated with insurgents ? and spent Friday in seclusion, recovering from 82 days of captivity.
Later, she flew to Germany and arrived at Ramstein Air Base near Landstuhl early Saturday. Carroll was seated in the cockpit of the plane, a C17 Globemaster that was also carrying several soldiers wounded in Iraq.
As the plane came to stop, she cast a bemused look at the bevy of television cameras waiting on the tarmac. “I’m happy to be here,” she told Col. Kurt Lohide, the U.S. officer who welcomed her to Ramstein Air Base. She was all smiles when she emerged from the aircraft a few minutes later, wearing jeans and sneakers and carrying a flight bag. Her hair, uncovered, was pulled back in a ponytail.
As journalists watched from a distance, Lohide escorted her to a waiting van.
Gone was the Islamic headscarf she had worn as a hostage and she had traded her full-length robe for jeans, a bulky gray sweater, and a desert camouflage jacket.
It was unclear if she would undego exams at the U.S. military’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. But later Saturday, Richard Walsh, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, said a flight carrying Carroll was expected to land at Logan International Airport in Boston late Sunday morning.
The paper she last wrote for, the Christian Science Monitor, is based there, and it provided major support during her time in captivity.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Liz Colton declined comment, saying all queries regarding Carroll were being handled by her family and the Monitor.
The Monitor’s editor, Richard Bergenheim, said that Carroll’s parents, who spoke to her about a video interview she made just before her release, told him it was “conducted under duress.”
“When you’re making a video and having to recite certain things with three men with machine guns standing over you, you’re probably going to say exactly what you’re told to say,” Bergenheim told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
He told NBC’s “Today” show that Carroll was “emotionally fragile” but doing well after her ordeal and that her family wanted her to delay her departure until she was “strong enough, emotionally and otherwise.”
Carroll, who was seized Jan. 7 in western Baghdad by gunmen who killed her Iraqi translator, was dropped off Thursday at an office of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni Arab organization, and later escorted to the Green Zone by the U.S. military, the Monitor said Friday. The newspaper said her captors had warned her not to cooperate with the Americans and said the Green Zone was infiltrated with insurgents.
At first, she was reluctant to go, but a Monitor writer in Baghdad, Scott Peterson, convinced her it was safe, the newspaper said.
In a video posted on an Islamist Web site, her abductors said they released Carroll because “the American government met some of our demands by releasing some of our women from prison.”
The kidnappers, calling themselves the Revenge Brigades, had demanded the release of all female detainees in Iraq by Feb. 26 or Carroll would be killed.
U.S. officials did release some female detainees at the time, but said it had nothing to do with the kidnappers’ demands. On Thursday, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the United States is still holding four women.
It was not possible to reach Carroll to ask her whether she actually held any of the views expressed in the pre-release video. Jim Carroll, her father, told the Monitor that the abductors told her daughter she would have to make a video praising her captors and attacking the United States to secure her freedom.
Her captors “obviously wanted maximum propaganda value in the U.S.,” Jim Carroll told the Monitor. “After listening to them for three months she already knew exactly what they wanted her to say, so she gave it to them with appropriate acting to make it look convincing.”
In the video, the journalist calls on President Bush to send American troops home.