American reporter Jill Carroll's three-month hostage ordeal ended Thursday when she was left on a Baghdad street in front of a Sunni political party office. She appeared composed and eager to talk about her 82 days held captive in a tiny room.
"It's important people know that I was not harmed," she said.
Wearing a green Islamic head scarf and a gray Iraqi robe, Carroll was dropped off at midday near an office of the Iraqi Islamic Party. She walked inside and was then driven 20 minutes to party headquarters, where she called her family and gave an interview to Baghdad Television before being handed over to U.S. authorities.
CBS News correspondent Lara Logan reports that Carroll appeared remarkably composed and healthy despite her weeks of captivity.
The 28-year-old freelancer for The Christian Science Monitor said her kidnappers confined her to a small, soundproof room with frosted windows but treated her well.
Although the captors issued televised threats to kill of the 28-year-old journalist if U.S. forces did not release female prisoners, Carroll said she felt safe.
"I was kept in very good small safe place, a safe room, nice furniture; they gave me clothing plenty of food. I was allowed to take showers, go to the bathroom when I wanted. Very good — (they) never hit me, never even threatened to hit me," Carroll said emphatically in the Baghdad Television interview.
Carroll said she did not know who her kidnappers were, where she was held or why she was set free. Shortly before she was released, the journalist said, "They just came to me and said, 'OK, we're letting you go now.' That's all."
When Carroll was abducted, her Iraqi interpreter, Allan Enwiyah, was shot to death.
An American embassy spokeswoman said 13 Americans, many of whom have dual Iraqi and American citizenship, are still being held hostage. There are also thousands of Iraqis who have been taken hostages. U.S. officials in Iraq believe that between 100 to 200 Iraqis are kidnapped every week, and many of them end up dead, Logan reports.
After spending time with her, one of Carroll's friends told Logan, "she's a great woman, you cannot believe how she held it together."
"It was difficult," Carroll said in the television interview. "I didn't know what happened happen to me. ... The room had a window but the glass was, you know, you can't see, and curtains and you couldn't hear any sound so I would sit in the room. If I had to take a shower, I walk two feet to next door, take a shower, go to the bathroom, come back. That's all. So I don't know what — where I was or what was going on. ... I once did watch television. But I didn't really know what was going on in the outside world. I got some news — here and there I would get some news. One time they brought me a newspaper so I got some news from a newspaper once, but that was about it."
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador, said there was no ransom paid by the American embassy, but his remarks left open the question of whether "arrangements" were made by others. None of the kidnappers was captured, he said.
"No U.S. person entered into any arrangements with anyone. By U.S. person I mean the United States mission," Khalilzad said.
He also said there was no connection between the recent release of several female Iraqi detainees and Carroll's freedom.
"What we did before had no connection with Jill Carroll," Khalilzad said. "We still have a few female detainees — four — and that's all I can say on that."
German authorities have arrested a man who is accused of trying to extort $2 million from the Monitor by promising to win Carroll's freedom.
The Monitor's editor, Richard Bergenheim, said no money had been exchanged for Carroll's release. "We simply know she was dropped off at the Iraqi Islamic Party headquarters," he said.
Tariq al-Hashimi, leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, also denied knowledge of a ransom payoff or his party's involvement in negotiating Carroll's release.
"The Iraqi Islamic Party did not take part in this," he said. "There have been no contacts with anybody. We don't know whether the newspaper paid a ransom or not. Our role was clear in appealing for her release."
"As I said, she's in great spirits" Khalilzad said. "I did spend some time with her and she's anxious to get home and we will do all that we can to help her get home as quickly as possible."
Logan spoke with one of Carroll's closest friends and colleague, Scott Peterson, who has been in Baghdad working for her release every day since she was kidnapped and spent most of today with Jill. He told Logan that when he saw her, he felt so blessed to see her smiling face, adding "We've waited a long time for this."
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