U.S. To Release 5 Jailed Iraqi Women

The U.S. military said Thursday it would release five Iraqi women detainees, a move demanded by the kidnappers of an American reporter to spare her life.

The women will be freed Thursday and Friday as part of a group of about 420 Iraqis to be released from military custody after reviews of their cases determined there was no reason to keep holding them.

Armed men who abducted Jill Carroll on Jan. 7 in Baghdad have threatened to kill the freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor unless all Iraqi women prisoners were freed.

The military confirmed it is holding nine Iraqi women. The fate of the remaining four was not immediately clear.

Earlier this week, Baghdad said any freeing of the Iraqi women would not be part of a swap to secure the release of Carroll. The local authorities said that would just be a step in the ordinary review process of the individual women's cases.

Iraqi Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim Ali said the routine release was planned before the kidnappers' ultimatum. But he believed the U.S. military was wary about the releases being seen as part of a swap for Carroll.

The kidnappers have threatened to kill Carroll unless U.S. forces released all Iraqi women in military custody. A deadline passed late Friday with no word on her fate.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports that the Interior Ministry indicates there still has been no direct contact with Carroll's abductors.

An Iraqi intelligence official with the Interior Ministry told CBS News, "We are getting information fed to us by a huge network of informants, and we take every lead seriously."

The general also said that the abduction appears to have been a well planned and professional operation.

Carroll's translator - although she speaks Arabic she used a 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.

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."

Carroll's parents continue to appeal to her captors via the American media.

"She is not your enemy," father Jim Carroll said Sunday on CNN. "You already know my daughter is honest, sincere, and of good heart. Her respect for the Iraqi people is evident in her words that she has been reporting. Jill started to tell your story, so, please, let her finish it."

More than 250 foreigners have been taken hostage, either by insurgents or gangs, since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam. At least 39 have been killed.