Jill Carroll, a 28-year-old freelancer for The Christian Science Monitor, was seized in Baghdad's predominantly Sunni Arab al-Adel neighborhood. Police said she went there to see a Sunni Arab politician.
Her driver, who survived the attack, said after Carroll and her party had waited 25 minutes for the politician to show up for the interview, they gave up and were leaving when their car was stopped.
"It was very obvious this was by design," the driver, who asked not to be identified, told the Monitor. "The whole operation took no more than a quarter of a minute. It was very highly organized. It was a setup, a perfect ambush."
The driver was pulled from the car — "They didn't give me any time to even put the car in neutral — and the kidnappers drove off with Carroll and her interpreter. His body was later found, shot twice in the head.
"You are a target as a citizen, you are a target, you will die at any moment. There is no security, enough security, for ourselves, for our families," the interpreter, Alan Ghazi, a former record shop owner, told CBS News about a year ago.
Carroll had just been laid off from a newspaper job and decided it was time to fulfill her dream of going to the Middle East to cover a war. Her proud sister has been keeping track of her travels in a blog.
The kidnapping came at the end of a very busy week for reporters in Iraq, reports CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella. Insurgent violence was spiraling out of control, and putting a strain on the political process. That was the focus of Carroll's last report, though it's not clear if her stories were what made her a target.
"All I ever wanted to be was a foreign correspondent," Carroll wrote last year in the American Journalism Review. "It seemed the right time to try to make it happen."
In the February/March issue of AJR, Carroll wrote that she moved to Jordan in late 2002, six months before the war started, "to learn as much about the region as possible before the fighting began."
"There was bound to be plenty of parachute journalism once the war started, and I didn't want to be a part of that," she wrote.
Carroll was described by her editor as an aggressive reporter but not a reckless one.
"I've never had any indication that she's reckless," said Marshall Ingwerson, managing editor for Boston-based Monitor.
Carroll has had work from Iraq published in the Monitor, AJR, U.S. News & World Report, an Italian news wire and other publications. She has been interviewed often on National Public Radio. Her most recent story was published in Friday's issue of the Monitor, headlined "Violence threatens Iraqi coalition."
"She's a very professional, straight-up, fact-oriented reporter," Ingwerson said.
Unlike most Western reporters, Carroll is able to speak Arabic, "so she can operate pretty well in Iraq," Ingwerson said.
Despite her language skills, Carroll used an Iraqi translator. The translator was killed during the kidnapping, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.
Maj. Falah Mohamadawi said the translator told police just before he died that the abduction took place when he and Carroll were heading to meet Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance Front, in the Adel section of the city. The neighborhood is dominated by Sunni Arabs and is considered one of the toughest in Baghdad.
Carroll, in the AJR piece, noted that "kidnappings and beheadings increased, and Western reporters became virtual prisoners in their hotel rooms. When they did go out, they would travel with two cars: one up front with the reporter, and a 'chase car' following in case the first vehicle was attacked."
It was not immediately known if there was a "chase car" on Saturday.
Carroll's sister, Kathryn, operated a Web log that documented Jill's work in Iraq. In an entry last Thursday, the sister wrote: "Jill finally sent some photos and these are great! Be sure to notice the blast walls to Jill's left by the xmas tree. At least we know there's some protection there!"
Carroll received a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1999. She returned to the United States in August after vacation in Bali, where her sister's blog said she had gone surfing, then went back to Baghdad, according to her sister's blog, which was pulled from the Web after the kidnapping.
UMass journalism professor Karen List said Carroll told her "on the first day of class" that she wanted to be a foreign correspondent.
"She's aggressive and energetic," List said. "Lots of people want to be writers. Many people don't want to do the hard work of reporting, but she does. She has a passion to tell the difficult story, and of course there's no story more difficult than Iraq."
Carroll, who competed on the UMass swim and water polo teams, had been laid off from her job as a reporting assistant for The Wall Street Journal before heading overseas.
In April, she found and reported about a 27-member Iraqi family whose home was destroyed by a car bomb. The youngest, a 3-year-old, was left paralyzed from the waist down. Monitor readers were touched and sent donations. Carroll returned months later for a visit.