Kidnapped U.S. Journalist Pleads for Help

Kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll appeared in a video aired Thursday on a private Kuwaiti TV station, appealing in a calm, composed voice for her supporters to do whatever it takes to win her release "as quickly as possible."

Carroll, wearing traditional Arab attire, said the date was Feb. 2, nearly a month after she was seized in Baghdad by armed men who killed her Iraqi translator. She was shown sitting on a chair in front of a wall with a large floral design.

The 28-year-old freelance reporter for The Christian Science Monitor said she had sent one letter and was sending another to "prove I am with the mujahedeen."

"I sent you a letter written by my hand, but you wanted more evidence," she said. "I am here. I am fine. Please just do whatever they want, give them whatever they want as quickly as possible. There is very short time. Please do it fast. That's all."

The 22-second video was carried by Al Rai TV, a private Kuwaiti channel, and included audio, unlike two previous videos of Carroll that were broadcast by Al-Jazeera television. A producer at Al-Jazeera said the station did not receive any letters with the videos it aired.

The Christian Science Monitor said it was seeking more information about the letter.

"It is always difficult to see someone speaking under coercion and under these circumstances," the Monitor's editor, Richard Bergenheim, said in a statement. "We remain in constant contact with Jill's family and are still doing everything possible to obtain Jill's release."

After Thursday's broadcast, Carroll's family issued a brief statement through the Monitor, saying only that "the family is hopeful and grateful to all those working on Jill's behalf."

Reporters Without Borders urged Arab media and Muslim dignitaries to intervene on Carroll's behalf.

"We remind Carroll's kidnappers that she is a journalist who has just done her job, which is to describe the conditions in which Iraqis are living," the media organization said. "She is not responsible for the U.S. government's decisions."

The new video was delivered earlier Thursday to Al Rai's Baghdad office and was aired in its entirety, Hani al-Srougi, an editor at the station's headquarters in Kuwait, told The Associated Press. It was accompanied by a letter written by Carroll.

The newscaster said on the air that the station would hand the letter over to authorities, but would not disclose the letter's content.

Tania Anderson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, said: "I assume that Al Rai has given the material they received to the Kuwaiti authorities, who I am confident will take the appropriate action at the earliest possible time. The embassy customarily works closely with our contacts with the Kuwaiti government and will seek their cooperation on this matter as well."

On Jan. 30, Al-Jazeera showed Carroll veiled and weeping, and the station said she appealed for the release of female Iraqi prisoners. The first videotape of Carroll was aired Jan. 17 by Al-Jazeera, which said her abductors gave the United States 72 hours to free female prisoners in Iraq or she would be killed.

Earlier Thursday, an Iraqi deputy justice minister said U.S. forces are expected to release about 450 male Iraqi detainees on Feb. 16. None of the four or five women believed to be in custody is expected to be freed, Busho Ibrahim Ali told the AP.

Armed men abducted Carroll on Jan. 7 in western Baghdad. Responsibility was claimed by the previously unknown "Revenge Brigades." Five foreigners were kidnapped in Iraq last month, including Carroll, two Germans and two Kenyan engineers.

U.S. officials have refused to discuss Carroll's kidnapping for fear of endangering her life.

However, some Iraqi and foreign security officials not directly involved in the case believe that in virtually all kidnappings, ransom money is the main goal and kidnappers present political or other demands to justify the act to their supporters.

It was not known why Carroll's captors sent the latest video to Kuwait's Al Rai or whether Al-Jazeera's decision not to air the previous videos' audio was a factor. Observers believe Al-Jazeera has been a favorite of militants for their messages because of its scope. Both Al Rai and Al-Jazeera are satellite stations available across the region, but Al-Jazeera is far more widely watched.

Al-Srougi said Al Rai has received and aired videos from Iraqi insurgents in the past but that they were propaganda videos showing attacks and other operations, not hostage videos.

The new tape was broadcast after millions of Iraqi Shiites marked their holiest day Thursday with processions, prayers and self-flagellation as stringent security prevented a repeat of major attacks by Sunni religious extremists on the annual Ashoura commemorations.

More than 1 million people braved gritty sandstorms to join rituals in Karbala, featuring blood-soaked processions and self-flagellation rites that mark the seventh-century death of the revered Shiite martyr, Imam Hussein, who is believed buried there.

Huge crowds turned out for Ashoura celebrations in Baghdad's Kazimiyah district and other Shiite shrines throughout the country.

In Karbala, the major Ashoura venue 50 miles south of Baghdad, about 8,000 security officers and extra Shiite militiamen frisked pilgrims and blocked vehicles to prevent attacks by Sunni Arab suicide bombers. In the past two years, attackers killed a total of more than 230 people on Ashoura.

U.S. unmanned, aerial drones flew overhead to help assure the safety of the worshippers, some of whom journeyed from as far as India and Pakistan.

Ashoura marks the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in the battle of Karbala in A.D. 680. The battle cemented the schism in Islam between Shiites and Sunnis. Shiites make up only about 15 percent of the world's Muslims but are the majority sect in Iraq.

The ceremonies occurred during heightened sectarian tensions between Shiites and Sunni Arabs, marked by a campaign of reprisal kidnappings and killings.

A Sunni Arab tribal chief, Sheik Rasheed Safi, and four relatives were found dead Thursday in Baghdad, police said. They had disappeared Wednesday after attending a funeral, said relatives, who claimed the five were abducted by Shiite death squads.

The United States is promoting efforts to form a new unity government comprising Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds in hopes of luring Sunnis away from the insurgency.

In Karbala and elsewhere, marchers dressed in black, slapped chains across their backs until their clothes were soaked with blood. Others beat their heads with the flat side of long swords and knives until blood ran freely in a ritual banned under ousted leader Saddam Hussein, a Sunni.

"Although it is a sad day, I am very happy because I took part in these head-beating processions," said 10-year-old Haider Abbas Salim, whose face was covered in blood. "Imam Hussein's martyrdom teaches us manhood and that we shouldn't fear anything."