Release of 6 Female Prisoners in Iraq Could Help Carroll, But U.S. Says No

By: E&P Staff and The Associated Press

Iraq has asked U.S. authorities to release six of the eight Iraqi females in military custody, a government official said Thursday.

Militants holding 28-year-old Jill Carroll have demanded U.S. authorities release all Iraqi female detainees or else they would kill the freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, who was kidnapped Jan. 7 in Baghdad.

But the U.S. military does not expect to release Iraqi female detainees in the near future, a Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joe Campbell said that eight Iraqi women who are being held by the United States in Iraq are going through the normal process of review to see if they will be released or continue to be held.

“There is no expected resolution of their cases in the near future,” Campbell told Reuters. “There is no accelerated process with regards to the women and how it relates to the kidnapped journalist in question,” he added, responding to questions about the threat by kidnappers to kill U.S. journalist Jill Carroll unless all women held by the U.S. military in Iraq were released.

New images showing Carroll surrounded by armed and masked hostage-takers were aired Thursday by Al-Jazeera television. The 20 seconds of silent footage also show her talking to the camera. An editor from Al-Jazeera said the footage was from the same tape the station had obtained and aired part of on Tuesday.

The U.S. military has said eight Iraqi women are in military detention. An Iraqi government commission reviewing detainee cases recommended to U.S. authorities on Monday that six of them be released.

An official from the Human Rights Ministry, which sits on the commission along with representatives of the Defense and Justice ministries, said the call to free the women was not made in response to demands from Carroll’s kidnappers, who gave authorities until Friday night to free the women.

“There was no outside pressure on the commission” to recommend releasing the women, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisal from insurgents. “This recommendation came after we studied the women’s files provided by the American military.”

Carroll’s mother made an emotional plea for her release on U.S. televison on Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, scores of people died in violence across Iraq on Wednesday.

Carroll was seen for the first time since her abduction in the footage aired by Al-Jazeera on Tuesday. The report said the 20-second video included a threat to kill Carroll in 72 hours unless U.S. authorities release all women detainees in Iraq.

A still photograph of Carroll from the videotape on Al-Jazeera’s website carried a logo reading “The Revenge Brigade,” a group that was not known from previous claims of responsibility of violence in Iraq.

Insurgents in Iraq, mainly Sunni Arab militants, have kidnapped more than 240 foreigners and killed at least 39 of them. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, more Iraqis have been abducted either by insurgents or gangs seeking ransoms.

An official from a prominent Sunni political organization called for Carroll’s release and denounced all kidnappings.

“We condemn the abductions of innocent civilians and journalists and call for the immediate release of the American reporter and all innocent people who have nothing to do with the (U.S.-led) occupation,” said Harith al-Obeidi of the Conference for Iraq’s People.

French journalist and former hostage Florence Aubenas, who was released in June after being held hostage for 157 days, also called on Carroll’s hostage-takers to release her.

“She came to this country to do her job as a journalist and not anything else,” Aubenas told Al-Jazeera.

Iraqi Accordance Front head Adnan al-Dulami, a Sunni Arab leader whom Carroll had been attempting to interview before she was taken, called the kidnapping un-Islamic, the Christian Science Monitor reported on its website.

On the streets of Baghdad, though, the reaction among ordinary Iraqis was mixed.

“If the purpose behind the abduction was to free Iraqi female prisoners, it was a legitimate right for Iraqis,” an Iraqi policemen said while conducting traffic in Baghdad. “But if it was a terrorist act, we denounced that.”

President Bush ignored shouted questions Wednesday about what his administration is doing to find Carroll. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said her safe return was a priority for the administration” but refused to say more “because of the sensitivity of the situation.”

David Cook, the Washington bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor, told a news conference that Carroll’s work has demonstrated she is respectful of Arab culture and people, and the newspaper has shown it treats different cultures and viewpoints fairly.

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