Thursday, October 20, 2005

Oh wait, you work for the Guardian? Our bad!

Media: This ought to be an interesting backstory to this very soon.

Guardian journalist freed in Iraq Rory Carroll, the 33-year-old Guardian journalist kidnapped yesterday in Baghdad, was freed tonight. The news of his freedom came in a telephone call from Carroll to his parents, Jo and Kate, at their home in Dublin. His father Jo said: "He told me that he had been released, that he was perfectly OK and in an Iraqi government compound having a beer. "He just said: 'I am safe and well and I have all my limbs on. I was in my cell and representatives of the Iraqi government came for me, they had a government car waiting. I have been in Baghdad all the time'."
Very interesting backstory indeed...
Carroll, who has been in Iraq since January, had been interviewing a family in Baghdad on Wednesday about the start of Saddam Hussein's trial before gunmen abducted him. He said he did not know who was responsible for snatching him. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi was present when he was released after a day and a half in darkness. "I don't know who took me," Carroll said. "I was released about an hour ago. I'm fine. I was treated reasonably well," he added. "I spent the last 36 hours in the dark. I was released into the hands of Dr Chalabi." Chalabi, a wealthy secular Shi'ite who returned from exile after the fall of Saddam and then fell out with his former sponsors in Washington, has built up powerful links with leading Shi'ite clerics. A British government source said he believed Carroll was released after two Iraqi prisoners were freed in southern Iraq. "I understand there was a swap, so it was something that was done by the Iraqis which resulted in his release and a couple of others being released who had been arrested a while ago," the source said. ....Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said the British and Irish governments had helped secure the release. Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said "a number of friends and partners" had helped. "The government is deeply grateful to all who helped achieve this happy outcome," he said in a statement. "I am utterly delighted for Rory Carroll and his family."
Update# The Guardian report gives a bit more credence to a hostage swap.
"'....Last night he was under the protection of the Iraqi government in the heavily fortified Green Zone. "I'm sitting having a beer and I feel absolutely fine - both physically and psychologically. I've been very well treated, apart from a bit of initial roughness when they first took me," he said. Carroll, 33, who has been in Iraq for nine months, had been in Sadr City, a Shia-dominated district of Baghdad on Wednesday, interviewing a victim of Saddam Hussein. He was snatched by gunmen as he was leaving the home of the interviewee. "They took me in a car and after 20 minutes switched me to the boot of another one. They stripped me of all my own clothes and dressed me in old clothes." He said he had been handcuffed and held in a room beneath a family home in Baghdad for 36 hours. "It was a darkened room, a concrete passageway beneath the ground floor. I only had a rug and pillow. They allowed me out twice for food." "They were Shia," he said. "At one point I was told I would be used as a bargaining chip in exchange for [Shia cleric Moqtada] al-Sadr people taken in Basra. My fear was that I would be sold on to the Sunni or Islamist groups." Speaking about his release last night, he said: "I heard a captor in the corridor answer his mobile. He laughed and sounded relieved and opened the bolted door and said, 'I am going to let you go'."
Couple of amusing quotes near the end.
There were warm wishes from unexpected quarters too. The Iranian government had issued a rare plea calling for his immediate release. The government, whose relations with the US and Britain have been more strained than usual during the past few months, had offered its prayers for his safe release. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a prominent cleric based in Qatar, said the Union of Islamic Scholars, which he presides over, "has always denounced these kidnappings, especially those carried out against journalists". He added: "The Guardian newspaper is well-known for its professional reporting and its fair coverage of the rights of oppressed peoples and just causes around the world." Inayat Bunglawala, a representative of the Muslim Council of Britain, had joined the calls. "All leading Islamic authorities have made it clear that kidnapping journalists is unhelpful and harmful to the Iraqi people," he said. "The Guardian is deeply respected within the British Muslim community for its balanced coverage of the Middle East and for providing a platform for a range of voices."
unexpected quarters.. It would be unexpected if they didn't say anything in praise of the Guardian.

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