BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi police were searching Tuesday for an American journalist who was kidnapped over the weekend when gunmen ambushed her car and killed her translator in western Baghdad.
Jill Carroll, 28, a freelance reporter on assignment for The Christian Science Monitor, was seized Saturday in the al-Adel area, a Sunni Arab neighborhood and one of the capital's most dangerous. Police said she went there to meet a Sunni Arab politician.
Gen. Mahdi al-Gharawi, commander of the Interior Ministry's public order forces, said Monday an investigation was under way.
"The ministry is working on this issue and investigations and searches are under way. We are gathering information through our sources and we cannot say more," al-Gharawi said.
The neighborhood is one of Baghdad's roughest and has been the site of numerous attacks against U.S. and Iraqi troops and security forces. It is also home to the Umm al-Qura mosque, headquarters of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a major Sunni clerical group that is believed to have ties to some insurgent groups.
The mosque was raided by U.S. troops shortly before dawn Sunday. An American military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the raid was a necessary immediate response to the kidnapping based on a tip provided by an Iraqi citizen. The military said Sunday that six people were detained. No other details were released.
The newspaper quoted Carroll's driver, who survived the attack, as saying he saw a group appear suddenly, "as if they had come from the sky."
"One guy attracted my attention. He jumped in front of me screaming, 'Stop! Stop! Stop!' with his left hand up and a pistol in his right hand," said the driver, who was not identified.
The newspaper said one of the kidnappers pulled the driver from the car, jumped in, and drove away with several kidnappers huddled around Carroll and her interpreter. "They didn't give me any time to even put the car in neutral," said the driver.
A statement by the newspaper said the kidnapping occurred about 300 yards from the office of Adnan al-Dulaimi, a leading Sunni Arab politician. Carroll had planned to interview him at 10 a.m. Saturday, her driver said.
Al-Dulaimi, however, was not in his office and Carroll and her interpreter left after 25 minutes.
"It was very obvious this was by design," said the driver. "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 newspaper said no one had claimed responsibility for the abduction.
The paper said she was "an established journalist who has been reporting from the Middle East for Jordanian, Italian and other news organizations over the past three years."
"The Monitor joins Jill's colleagues — Iraqi and foreign — in the Baghdad press in calling for her immediate and safe release," it said.
"Jill's ability to help others understand the issues facing all groups in Iraq has been invaluable. We are urgently seeking information about Ms. Carroll and are pursuing every avenue to secure her release," said Monitor Editor Richard Bergenheim.
After initial reports of the kidnapping on Saturday, The Associated Press and other news organizations honored a request from the newspaper in Boston and a journalists' group in Baghdad for a news blackout. The request was made to give authorities an opportunity to try to resolve the incident during the early hours after the abduction.
At the time of the kidnapping, police Maj. Falah Mohamadawi said Carroll's translator, identified on a U.S.-issued press card as Alan John Ghazi, told police before he died that he and Carroll had gone to meet al-Dulaimi, the leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front.
However, the newspaper identified the translator as Allan Enwiyah, 32.
Carroll's parents live in Ann Arbor, Mich. She moved to Jordan six months before the Iraq war started "to learn as much about the region as possible before the fighting began," she wrote in the February/March edition of American Journalism Review.
"All I ever wanted to be was a foreign correspondent," she wrote last year in the magazine. "It seemed the right time to try to make it happen."
Carroll noted that in the months after the war began "kidnappings and beheadings increased, and Western reporters became virtual prisoners in their hotel rooms."
Carroll is an aggressive reporter but was careful, Monitor Managing Editor Marshall Ingwerson said. "She's a very professional, straight-up, fact-oriented reporter," Ingwerson said.
Carroll, who speaks some Arabic but uses a translator, also has written from Iraq for U.S. News and World Report, other publications, and an Italian news agency. She's also been interviewed by National Public Radio.