The Jill Carroll Story – Part 1: The kidnapping
(Page 2 of 5)
In our time together we'd eked out a living freelancing for the Italian news agency ANSA, USA Today, US News & World Report, and now The Christian Science Monitor. We had been threatened by militia members, mobbed after Friday prayers, and seen bullets rain down from passing police vehicles. We'd walked hours through Baghdad soliciting interviews from ordinary Iraqi voters.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
During long days in traffic jams, Alan would tell me funny stories about his daughter and infant son, marveling at how fast they were growing. I would tease him that I was a spy for his wife, Fairuz, and would report to her if I caught him looking in the direction of a pretty girl.
The first interview on our list that morning was Adnan al-Dulaimi, a Sunni politician. While there was a handful of what Western journalists considered no-go neighborhoods in Baghdad – his office wasn't in that category yet. But we had taken our normal security precautions. I was dressed, for example, in a black hijab that hid my hair and Western clothes. We'd been to Mr. Dulaimi's office several times before without a problem. Our last trip had been two days earlier to set up this interview.
In retrospect, that was a fatal mistake; we had given someone 48 hours to prepare for our return.
Adnan Abbas, the Monitor's longtime driver – who'd shared many of our harrowing experiences – guided his maroon Toyota sedan along the familiar route to Dulaimi's office, dropping us off 20 minutes earlier than the scheduled time of 10 a.m.
Inside, Dulaimi's aides steered us away from the usual waiting room full of men drinking sweet tea in tiny glasses, and into an adjoining room where we were alone. Alan and I noticed the strangeness of this move at the same moment.
"Well, it's better," Alan said. "You're a woman and there are a lot of men in there."
The minutes passed and aides walked through the room chatting on cellphones. I understood through my rudimentary Arabic that they were telling various people that a reporter was waiting to see Dulaimi. But a little after 10 a.m. the same aide who had made the appointment for us approached us.
"Sorry, Dr. Dulaimi has a press conference right now," the aide said. "He can't talk to you. Can you come back at 12?"
I wondered why I hadn't heard about the press conference before now.
We agreed to come back later and stepped out into the bright sunny morning where Adnan was waiting for us.
As we walked to the car, Alan reminded me that we needed to call ahead to make sure our next interview was still on. He climbed into the front, and I handed him my phone from the back seat, my usual place. He began shouting into the phone, trying to make himself heard over Baghdad's overloaded, spotty cellphone network.
Adnan had begun to pull away, but suddenly a large blue truck with red and yellow trim backed out of a driveway in front of us, completely blocking the road. Several men were standing around it, motioning to help it back out.
But in an instant they turned, trained pistols on us, and briskly approached the car.
Adnan hit the brakes, and he and Alan put their hands up. It was a routine we had become familiar with in Baghdad, where private security details often brandish weapons to clear a path for their clients.
But unlike the previous times, the men didn't lower their weapons – and they kept advancing. The man closest to the car, a rotund person with salt-and-pepper stubble, had his gun aimed right through the windshield at Adnan.
My eyes were glued to him. I was confused about why he didn't lower his pistol. At the same time Adnan and Alan opened their doors and began to get out of the car.