A deadline set by the captors of reporter Jill Carroll came and went on Sunday with no definitive news on her situation. But Iraq's interior minister, in conversations with the US ambassador and in an interview with ABC television, says he thinks Ms. Carroll is alive and will be recovered safely.
Interior Minister Bayan Jabr told ABC that his ministry knows who arranged Ms. Carroll's abduction. "We know his name and address, and we are following up on him as well as the Americans," he said. "I think she is still alive."
Jabr said in his ABC interview that his ministry does not know where Carroll is and that she may have recently been moved. His comments contradict an earlier interview US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad gave to Fox News saying that the Interior Ministry may "have information with regard to where she might be held."
On Saturday night, Iraqi forces said they raided homes looking for Carroll but without results. Wide-ranging efforts - by US and Iraqi officials, as well as local media - to secure her release continue. Iraqi politicians, press groups and some of the world's most prominent Muslim clerics have urged she be released unharmed.
"We will work as hard as we can to get her released,'' Ambassador Khalilzad said. "She clearly is in a dangerous situation, but we're working hard with the Iraqis and others to get her released."
Iraqi officials say heightened tensions and violence in the country since a bomb destroyed a major Shiite shrine in Samarra last Wednesday have complicated efforts to free Carroll.
Carroll, a 28-year-old freelance reporter for this and other newspapers, has been held captive since the morning of Jan. 7, when she was abducted and her translator Allan Enwiyah was killed. The incident occurred moments after they left the Baghdad offices of Adnan al-Dulaimi, one of the country's most prominent Sunni Arab politicians.
Carroll moved to Iraq shortly after the US invasion from Jordan, where she was studying Arabic and working at the English-language Jordan Times.
Three videotapes have been released by Carroll's captors since then, the last on Feb. 9, provided to Kuwait's Al-Rai television. In that tape, Carroll appeared calm and well, but said that "time was running out." She said the tape was made on Feb. 2.
Al-Rai's owner, Jassim Boodai, said the kidnappers told him that they had set a Feb. 26 deadline for their demands to be met. An earlier deadline on Jan. 20 passed without incident. In the first two videos, Carroll's captors demanded the release of Iraqi women from prisons in exchange for her freedom. No mention of this demand was made in the third video.
The Iraq war is proving to be one of the most dangerous conflicts for journalists in the world. Last Wednesday, Al Arabiya television correspondent Atwar Bahjat and her crew, Adnan Abdullah and Khaled Muhassan, were murdered while covering the aftermath of the shrine attack in Samarra.
On Feb. 2, Reem Zaid and Marwan Khazal,two journalists for Iraq's Sumeriya TV, were abducted outside the offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni group. Nothing has been heard of them since.