Transcript: Journalist Stephen Farrell Kidnapped, Then Released in Iraq

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, April 8, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: ... soldiers aren't the only ones at risk in Iraq. The Iraqis have started kidnapping westerners, as David just reported, including my next guest who was just safely released. Stephen Farrell is a reporter for The Times of London. He was kidnapped by bandits or resistance fighters, or whatever you might want to call them, and then turned over to other resistance fighters. Steve Farrell (search) escaped his ordeal today and is free. He is in Baghdad, and we are going to talk to him in just a moment.

But just to recap, seven South Korean missionaries were captured as well, kidnapped by insurgent fighters, and three Japanese. These pictures we're looking at are the Japanese. There's one aid worker and two journalists. They have been blindfolded, and as you can see there in the possession of armed people from some Shiite — from Shiite (search) insurgent fighters. I'm just stammering for a second because we're hearing word from the Pentagon that six more combat deaths have now been reported. Six American combat deaths in just today, so that brings the total I think of today, to 11. Five reported earlier, and now another six.

Let me go now to Stephen Farrell of "The Times" of London" who was captured by bandits, turned over to resistance fighters and then released. Stephen. Why were you kidnapped, and how were you freed?

STEPHEN FARRELL, CORRESPONDENT, TIMES OF LONDON: Well, I was kidnapped because I was driving an armored car from Amman to Baghdad to bring it in for my colleague who works here with me. And on the way U.S. Marines had sealed off the road near Fallujah. We had to divert through side roads into the capital, and on the way a lorry load of bandits hijacked us, Kalashnikovs (search) spraying our car with bullets and RPGs and took us hostage.

GIBSON: Now, what did they want? Did they want a hostage, or did they want your armored car?

FARRELL: No, they didn't want the armored car. We got it back in the end. What they wanted — it's hard to tell. I think we were clearly dealing with two different groups of people here. The first people who grabbed us were, frankly, just outlaws, bandits, people taking advantage of the chaos to grab money, whatever they could. If they can kill an American and a Brit, great as far as they're concerned. We were an American and a Brit in the car. About 20 minutes into the ordeal, as we were being taken off to a secret hiding place of theirs, we suddenly ran into a completely different group of Iraqis.

This was a very disciplined, very ruthless, very well-organized group who, if you like abducted us from our abductors. They said, no, they're ours, they're with us and they bundled us into their car.. We were driven off to another safe house, and there we were interrogated for seven or eight hours to establish whether we were soldiers, or coalition officials or journalists. It was made very clear to us that if we were found to be coalition soldiers, we were dead.

GIBSON: What was their — now, there's been a spate of these kidnappings. We have seen the South Koreans, a group of them who were Christian missionaries, and perhaps that's more understandable why they were grabbed, although they were released. The Japanese are now being held as kind of leverage to get the Japanese government to pull the small Japanese contingent out of Iraq. Do you know why — would there have been further reason to hold you, or was it a merely a matter of once they discovered you were journalists, they were willing to let you go?

FARRELL: I think we were dealing with very calculating people. They were very intelligent, whatever you think of their motives, whatever you think of what they're doing. Their purpose is to clearly kill as many Americans as they can. They're not stupid. They realized after some considerable amount of discussion and persuasion that we were journalists. And at that point it suited their interests to have us go out to the world and tell the world what they wanted to tell the world, so that's ...

GIBSON: What is it they thought you would carry to the world? What was it that they saw an advantage in you telling?

FARRELL: Well, they said time and time again to us, we are not terrorists. We are resistance fighters. How would you like it if a foreign army came to your country and occupied your country? That's what we are here to do. We're here to soldiers. You are not soldiers, therefore, we do not kill you. It's as simple as that. They had other messages. Some of them believed Saddam Hussein was clearly the best thing that happened to Iraq and certainly Fallujah. And we got a bit of diatribe about that. And others were quite clearly not in favor of Saddam.

They were delighted the Americans had gotten rid of him, and there was a bit of — a little bit of argument between the group who took us. We're not dealing with some monolithic group of people who have exactly the same attitudes. I got the impression there were fierce pro-Saddam Ba'athists and I got the impression there were people who actually were pretty sick of the Mujahedeen firing from there their windows and their gardens at the Americans and just wanted the whole thing to be over.

GIBSON: Stephen, did you get the impression that the much-feared alliance of the Sunnis and the Shia is underway?

FARRELL: That was one of the key points that they made to us time and time again, although that said, it's one of the key points every Iraqi has made to me for the last 12 months here. And I don't believe it really any more now than I did then. But they were insisting there is no difference between Sunni and Shia. At one stage, we got into a big discussion about Catholic and Protestant, all Christian, Sunni and Shia, all Muslim. That was the kind of parallel they were trying to draw. We're in this together. Whether or not it's true, I don't know.

GIBSON: Stephen Farrell "Times of London" kidnapped along with his American colleague on the way into Baghdad with a car and released. Stephen, congratulations. Glad to see you, and thank you for coming on. Appreciate it.

FARRELL: No problem.

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