BAGHDAD AND PARIS — Jill Carroll, a freelance journalist currently on assignment for The Christian Science Monitor, was abducted by unknown gunmen in Baghdad Saturday morning. Her Iraqi interpreter was killed during the kidnapping.
"I saw a group of people coming as if they had come from the sky," recalled Ms. Carroll's driver, who survived the attack. "One guy attracted my attention. He jumped in front of me screaming, 'Stop! Stop! Stop!' with his left hand up and a pistol in his right hand."
One of the kidnappers pulled the driver from the car, jumped in, and drove away with several others huddled around Carroll and her interpreter, said the driver, who asked not to be identified. "They didn't give me any time to even put the car in neutral," he recounted.
The body of the interpreter, Allan Enwiyah, 32, was later found in the same neighborhood. He had been shot twice in the head, law enforcement officials said. There has been no word yet on Carroll's whereabouts.
The kidnapping occurred within 300 yards of the office of Adnan al-Dulaimi, a prominent Sunni politician, whom Carroll had been intending to interview at 10 a.m. Saturday local time, the driver said.
Mr. Dulaimi, however, turned out not to be at his office, and after 25 minutes, Carroll and her interpreter left. Their car was stopped as she drove away. "It was very obvious this was by design," said the driver. "The whole operation took no more than a quarter of a minute. It was very highly organized. It was a setup, a perfect ambush."
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, which is under investigation by Iraqi and US officials.
Richard Bergenheim, editor of the Monitor, appealed to Carroll's abductors to let her go immediately. "Jill's ability to help others understand the issues facing all groups in Iraq has been invaluable. We are urgently seeking information about Ms. Carroll and are pursuing every avenue to secure her release," he said.
Carroll's relatives also pleaded for her release, urging her captors to "consider the work she has done to reveal the truth about the Iraq war."
Carroll, who has been working in Iraq since October 2003, has been contributing articles regularly since last February to The Christian Science Monitor, according to World News Editor David Clark Scott. "She has proved an insightful, resourceful, and courageous reporter," he said. "But Jill is not the kind of person to take undue risks."
When five or six men, including a large, mustachioed man with short hair waving a Glock handgun, stopped Carroll's car, the driver said he thought the men were from Dulaimi's security detail, so he slowed down.
On his knees on the ground, after having been pulled roughly from the driver's seat, he turned to see his car, a red Toyota Cressida, accelerating away "with a lot of heads inside." Carroll and Enwiyah were clearly alive at that point, he said.
One remaining kidnapper, standing calmly in the middle of the road as the others left, told him to "get away, bastard."
"He spoke to me as a father to a boy [but] in a very dirty way, like a traitor," the driver said.
It was then, he said, that the kidnapper shot once at him, the only time a firearm was used during the kidnapping. "When he shot at me [and missed], I understood this was an abduction. I jumped behind an electrical pole and then ran down an alley," he recalled, before seeking shelter at a joint Iraqi-US Army base.
Since arriving in Baghdad, Carroll has worked for the Italian news agency ANSA, the San Francisco Chronicle, and other US dailies, as well as the Monitor. She had previously worked as a reporter for The Jordan Times in Amman after graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Jill is the latest of 31 journalists to have been kidnapped in Iraq since the beginning of the war according to Reporters Sans Frontières, an advocacy group in Paris. Thousands of Iraqis and more than 250 foreigners have been abducted, some by gangs seeking ransom, others by insurgents demanding the departure of US troops from Iraq. Four Christian peace activists are among the dozen or so foreigners still being held captive.