BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Iraq has asked U.S. authorities to release six of the eight Iraqi females in military custody but not as part of a bid to free a kidnapped American woman journalist, a government official said Thursday.
Militants holding 28-year-old Jill Carroll have demanded U.S. authorities release all Iraqi female detainees or else they would kill the freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, who was kidnapped Jan. 7 in Baghdad.
New images showing Carroll surrounded by armed and masked hostage-takers in Iraq were aired Thursday by Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera.
The silent footage, about 20 seconds in length, was from the same tape the station obtained and aired part of on Tuesday, according to an Al-Jazeera editor who declined to be identified because he was unauthorized to speak to the media.
One of the three insurgents was shown reading a statement and standing behind a seated Carroll in what appeared to be a room of a house.
The militants holding Carroll have demanded U.S. authorities release all Iraqi female detainees or else they would kill her.
A still photograph of Carroll from the videotape posted Tuesday on Al-Jazeera’s Web site carried a logo reading “The Revenge Brigade,” a group that was not known from previous claims of responsibility of violence in Iraq.
The U.S. military said eight Iraqi women are in military detention and a government commission reviewing cases of Iraqi detainees recommended to U.S. authorities on Monday that six be released.
An official from the Human Rights Ministry, which sits on the commission along with representatives of the Defense and Justice ministries, said the call was not made in response to demands from Carroll’s kidnappers, who gave authorities until Friday night to free the women.
“There was no outside pressure on the commission” to release the women, said the official who declined to be identified further because he feared reprisal from insurgents.
“This recommendation came after we studied the women’s files provided by American military and we recommended their release,” the official added.
U.S. officials refused to comment Wednesday on whether any of the women were set to be released. Insurgents in Iraq, mainly Sunni Arab militants, have kidnapped more than 240 foreigners and killed at least 39 of them. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, more Iraqis have been abducted either by insurgents or gangs seeking ransoms.
The fate of two engineers, believed to be Kenyans and working for Iraqi cell phone company Iraqna, was still unknown after they went missing and were feared kidnapped in an ambush of their security convoy in Baghdad on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Iraqi officials said Iran was expected to return nine Iraqi sailors later Thursday detained following a weekend clash near the Shatt al-Arab waterway, or Arvand River, in the Persian Gulf.
An official from a prominent Sunni political organization called for Carroll’s release and denounced all kidnappings. “We condemn the abductions of innocent civilians and journalists and call for the immediate release of the American reporter and all innocent people who have nothing to do with the (U.S.-led) occupation,” said Harith al-Obeidi of the Conference for Iraq’s People.
Ordinary Iraqis even criticized the kidnappers as tightlipped Iraqi and U.S. authorities continued efforts to try release her. “If the purpose behind the abduction was to free Iraqi female prisoners, it was a legitimate right for Iraqis,” an Iraqi policemen said while conducting traffic in Baghdad. “But if it was a terrorist act, we denounced that.”
French journalist and former hostage Florence Aubenas, who was released in June after being held hostage for 157 days, called on the American’s hostage-takers to release her. “She came to this country to do her job as a journalist and not anything else,” Aubenas told Al-Jazeera TV.
U.S. and Iraqi Muslim groups also appealed for Carroll’s release Wednesday. The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations was planning press conferences in Amman, Jordan and Baghdad to try to convince Carroll’s captors to release her.
Iraqi Accordance Front head Adnan al-Dulami, a Sunni Arab leader whom Carroll had been attempting to interview before she was taken, called the kidnapping un-Islamic, the Monitor reported on its Web site.