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Kidnapped U.S. journalist appears in new video

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The U.S. journalist Jill Carroll, weeping and veiled, appeared on a new videotape aired Monday by Al-Jazeera, and the Arab television station said she appealed for the release of all Iraqi women prisoners.

The video was dated Saturday -- two days after the U.S. military released five Iraqi women from custody.

Carroll, 28, was crying and wore a conservative Islamic veil as she spoke to the camera, sitting in front of a yellow and black tapestry. The Al-Jazeera newscaster said she appealed for U.S. and Iraqi authorities to free all women prisoners to help "in winning her release."

At one point, Carroll's cracking voice can be heard from behind the newsreader's voice. All that can be heard is Carroll saying, "... hope for the families ..."

The U.S. military released the women last Thursday and was believed be holding about six more. It was unclear how many women were held by Iraqi authorities.

Carroll, a freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, was seized Jan. 7 by the previously unknown Revenge Brigades, which threatened to kill her unless all women prisoners were released. Al-Jazeera did not report any deadline or threat to kill her Monday.

Al-Jazeera editor Yasser Thabit said the station received the tape Monday and that it was between two to three minutes long, but only a fraction of the footage was telecast.

In a statement, the Monitor again appealed for her release.

"Anyone with a heart will feel distressed that an innocent woman like Jill Carroll would be treated in the manner shown in the latest video aired by Al-Jazeera," the statement said. "We add our voice to those of Arabs around the world, and especially to those in Iraq, who have condemned this act of kidnapping. We ask that she be returned to the protection of her family immediately."

Carroll's father, who lives in North Carolina, has said he will have no comment until her release.

U.S. troops clashed throughout the day with insurgents west of Baghdad. Iraqi police launched a new raid in a Sunni Arab-dominated part of the capital, despite Sunni calls to halt such operations during talks to form a new government.

The clashes west of Baghdad occurred in Ramadi, capital of the insurgent-ridden Anbar province, and began when gunmen fired at least five rocket-propelled grenade rounds and rifles at U.S. Army soldiers, a military spokesman said.

"The soldiers returned fire and called in a jet nearby to attack the insurgents' position with their main gun," Marine Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool said. Two insurgents were killed, but there were no U.S. casualties, he added.

U.S. troops later called in an airstrike against insurgents holed up at the Ramadi sports stadium, raising a column of spoke, residents said. Two civilians were injured when mortar shells exploded near the provincial office building, and one woman was killed by small arms fire, they added.

In Baghdad, Iraqi Interior Ministry commandoes searched the notorious Dora neighborhood, a largely Sunni Arab district and scene of frequent bombings and killings. More than 80 suspects were arrested, including eight Sudanese, four Egyptians, a Tunisian and Lebanese, according to Maj. Faleh al-Mohammedawi.

The raid occurred despite calls by Sunni Arab politicians for a halt to such operations as the country's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish politicians are discussing formation of a new national unity government, which U.S. officials hope can win the trust of the Sunni Arab community -- the backbone of the insurgency.

Sunni Arabs have accused the Shiite-led Interior Ministry forces of abuses against Sunnis. Ministry officials insist the raids are necessary to combat insurgents.

Iraqi police and soldiers, most of them Shiites, are frequent targets of Sunni insurgents.

In the latest attacks, a suicide car bomber slammed into a commando headquarters where police were training in Nasiriyah, about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, killing one policeman and wounding more than 30, police reported. A roadside blast in western Baghdad killed an Iraqi policeman and wounded another, police said.

In the Kurdish-run city of Sulaimaniyah, the country's health minister Abdel Mutalib Mohammed announced the first confirmed case of bird flu in the Middle East. World Health Organization officials said tests showed that a 15-year-old girl who died this month in northern Iraq suffered from the deadly H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus.

Tests were under way to determine if the girl's 50-year-old uncle, who lived in the same house, also died of the virus, officials said. The uncle died last Friday after suffering symptoms similar to bird flu, Iraqi health officials said.

ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt, who were seriously injured in a roadside bombing Sunday, were being treated by a trauma team at a U.S. military hospital in Germany.

"They're both very seriously injured, but stable," said Col. Bryan Gamble, commander of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in western Germany.

ABC officials said they suffered head injuries and that Woodruff also had broken bones. Gamble said the men's body armor may have saved them from worse injuries.

The Italian soldier was slightly injured when an Italian convoy came under attack near Nasiriyah as it was headed to a village to help install electrical power infrastructure, a military statement said. Italy has a 2,600-member military contingent based in Nasiriyah.

A British soldier died of wounds suffered after his patrol came under fire in Maysan province, a British Defense Ministry spokeswoman said. Since the 2003 invasion, 99 British troops have died, about two-thirds of them in combat and insurgent attacks.

Later, a roadside bomb exploded near a British patrol in Maysan's provincial capital Amarah, injuring one civilian, Iraqi police said.

Elsewhere in southern Iraq, a roadside bomb exploded Monday near a joint Danish-Iraqi patrol north of Basra, wounding one Iraqi policeman, military officials said. Danish forces said the bomb targeted the Iraqi police.

The attack was the first involving Danish troops since protests flared recently against a Danish newspaper for publishing widely criticized caricatures of Islam's prophet. The images sparked wide protest across Iraq and throughout the Islamic world. Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet, even respectful ones.


Associated Press correspondent Nadia Abou El-Magd contributed to this report from Cairo, Egypt.


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