Sunday, April 02, 2006

Freed reporter says forced into anti-US video

Freed reporter says forced into anti-US video
By Jason Szep

BOSTON (Reuters) - Describing her captivity in Iraq as horrific, freed American hostage Jill Carroll disavowed on Saturday critical statements she made about the United States, saying she had been forced to make a propaganda video.

In the video made before her release and posted on a jihadist Web site that also showed beheadings and attacks on American forces, Carroll denounced the U.S. presence in Iraq and praised the militants fighting American forces there.

"Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not," she said in a statement read in Boston by Richard Bergenheim, editor of The Christian Science Monitor, the Boston-based employer of the 28-year-old journalist.

Carroll, who was abducted in Baghdad on January 7 and released 82 days later on Thursday, said in her first public statement since leaving Iraq that her captors forced her to make the video during her last night of captivity.

"They told me they would let me go if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. I agreed," she said in the statement made while she is in Germany.

Wearing a traditional Islamic head scarf, Carroll looked relaxed in the broadcast that has drawn criticism from some conservative commentators, describing U.S. policy in Iraq as built on a "mountain of lies" and saying U.S. President George W. Bush "doesn't care about his own people".


In her statement on Saturday, she said she been threatened repeatedly and described her captors as "criminals at best." She also recanted statements she made in an interview given to the Iraqi Islamic Party shortly after her release.

"The party had promised me the interview would never be aired on television, and broke their word. At any rate, fearing retribution from my captors, I did not speak freely. Out of fear I said I wasn't threatened," she said.

"In fact, I was threatened many times."

She said at least two false statements about her had been widely aired: that she refused to travel and cooperate with the U.S. military and that she refused to discuss her captivity with U.S. officials. "Again, neither is true," she said.

"I want to be judged as a journalist, not as a hostage."

"Let me be clear: I abhor all who kidnap and murder civilians, and my captors are clearly guilty of both crimes."

Carroll was due to fly into Boston on Sunday morning from Germany, where she arrived on Saturday at Ramstein U.S. air base aboard a U.S. military transport plane from Iraq.

Television showed Carroll stepping off the plane wearing jeans, a camouflage jacket and without the Islamic head scarf she had worn in several videos while held hostage in a darkened, soundproofed room she has described as like a cave.

"I'm happy to be here," she said in Germany.

In the statement, Carroll described her captivity as "horrific" for her and her family, and thanked her supporters around the world for rallying on her behalf after she was kidnapped by the militants who also killed her Iraqi interpreter.

"Now, I ask for the time to heal," she said. "This has been a taxing 12 weeks for me and my family. Please allow us some quiet time alone, together."