FRANKFURT, Germany – Former hostage Jill Carroll left Germany on Sunday aboard a commercial airliner headed to Boston, the final stage of her journey home after 82 days in captivity in Iraq.
Reporters aboard the Lufthansa plane said they saw the 28-year-old accompanied by a colleague from her employer, the Christian Science Monitor. The plane was scheduled to land in the United States around 12 p.m. EDT.
Carroll arrived at the Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany on Saturday from Balad Air Base in Baghdad. She strongly disavowed statements she had made during captivity in Iraq and shortly after her release, saying she had been repeatedly threatened.
In a video recorded before she was freed and posted by her captors on an Islamist Web site, Carroll spoke out against the U.S. military presence. On Saturday, she said the recording was made under duress.
"During my last night in captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me I would be released if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. So I agreed," she said in a statement.
"Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was held prisoner for more than five years during the Vietnam War, on Sunday called Jill Carroll a young woman who found herself in "a terrible, terrible position" and said Americans should view her taped statements critical of the U.S. military presence in Iraq in that context.
"We are glad she's home. We understand when you're held a captive in that situation that you do things under duress. God bless her, and we're glad she's home," McCain said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
McCain said he would not take seriously anything Carroll said while she was being held captive.
"I would not take them seriously, I would not any more than we took seriously other tapes and things that were done in other prison situations, including the Vietnam War," McCain said.
Carroll, who has studied Arabic, attracted a huge amount of sympathy during her ordeal, and a wide variety of groups in the Middle East, including the Islamic militant group Hamas, appealed for her release.
Aside from the short interview aired on Iraqi television upon her release, Carroll had otherwise not shown herself in public prior to a brief appearance Saturday.
The kidnappers, calling themselves the Revenge Brigades, had demanded the release of all female detainees in Iraq by Feb. 26 or Carroll would be killed. U.S. officials did release some female detainees at the time, but said it had nothing to do with the demands.
In the statement, Carroll also disavowed an interview she gave to the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni Arab organization in whose offices she was dropped off upon her release. She said the party had promised her the interview would not be aired "and broke their word."
"At any rate, fearing retribution from my captors, I did not speak freely. Out of fear, I said I wasn't threatened. In fact, I was threatened many times," she said. "Also, at least two false statements about me have been widely aired: One — that I refused to travel and cooperate with the U.S. military, and two — that I refused to discuss my captivity with U.S. officials. Again, neither statement is true."
The remarks have drawn criticism from conservative bloggers and commentators, but the Monitor said "Carroll did what many hostage experts and past captives would have urged her to do: Give the men who held the power of life and death over her what they wanted."
Carroll has said her kidnappers confined her to a small, soundproof room with frosted, opaque windows.
In her statement Saturday, she condemned her captors, although she did not address the war in Iraq.
"I will not engage in polemics. But let me be clear: I abhor all who kidnap and murder civilians, and my captors are clearly guilty of both crimes," she said.
Carroll thanked those who had helped secure her release and said she wanted time to recover.
"This has been a taxing 12 weeks for me and for my family," she said. "Please allow us some quiet time alone, together."