Jill Carroll: chorus of support from Muslim leaders

A delegation from the Council on American-Islamic Relations arrived in Baghdad Saturday, adding its voice to what is described as an unprecedented outpouring of Muslim support for the release of American reporter Jill Carroll.

"The kidnapping of Jill Carroll does not benefit the kidnappers," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Washington-based group that represents US mosques and Islamic associations. "She has been friendly and respectful of the Iraqi people, not an enemy," he added.

At press time Sunday, David Cook, the Monitor's Washington bureau chief, said that there has been no new information about Ms. Carroll. "We are continuing to watch developments in Iraq and doing all we can to speed Jill's release, unharmed, to her family."

Also joining the Muslim voices calling for Carroll's release was Yasser al-Sirri, director of the London-based Islamic Observation Centre. He called on the "Brigades of Vengeance" - the group that is demanding Iraqi women prisoners be let out - to release Carroll rather than tarnish the image of Islam.

A spokesman in Iraq's Justice Ministry said Sunday that it still expects US forces to release six of nine Iraqi women prisoners this week, despite US comments to the contrary.

"The Iraqi detainees will be released within a week from today," the Justice Ministry spokesman told Reuters. A US military spokesman declined comment.

US troops have raided homes in several areas of Baghdad in recent days. "All of a sudden we heard an explosion. They blew open the front door and fired stun grenades into the living room. They rounded us up and threw me on the floor and a soldier put me on the floor and kept his boot on my back," Hamdiya Sabri told Reuters.

The US soldiers asked if the family members knew anything about the neighbors and then they asked about Carroll. "They told us that they had a tip that the American journalist was being held in this area and asked me what I thought of her," said Thamir Nazih. "I said I was sympathetic about Jill Carroll and that she is innocent. Then they asked me if I knew any terrorists - this only after they stormed the house and humiliated my family."

After the search, a US soldier promised $300 compensation and apologized. The soldiers took away Jassim, the youngest son of the family, saying he would be questioned and freed in a day or two.

On Friday, Adnan al-Dulaimi of the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front, a leading Sunni political group, held a press conference to denounce the kidnapping. "I am asking you to release this woman. By kidnapping her, you are insulting me. You're insulting the work that I've been doing for Iraq. To the men who are kidnapping her: You know that the woman has a special status in our religion, our culture, and our principles. I'm asking those men who have kidnapped her to release her unconditionally.... I have worked hard in the past to secure the release of Iraqi prisoners. The arrest of this noble journalist will complicate my efforts to release Iraqi prisoners."

Material from the wire services was used in this report.

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