BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – The Baghdad correspondent of London”s Guardian newspaper was freed on Thursday after 36 hours in the hands of Iraqi kidnappers.
Irishman Rory Carroll, 33, told Reuters he did not know who was responsible for snatching him and holding him handcuffed in an unlit basement cell in a family home. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi was present on his release, he added.
Carroll”s newspaper said he was seized as he left the home of a Shi”ite Muslim family who had suffered under Saddam Hussein. He had been hearing their reaction to the first day of the former president”s televised trial for killing Shi”ites.
The appointment, the Guardian said, was arranged with help from the office of Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shi”ite cleric; his forces have clashed with British troops in southern Iraq and run the Sadr City area of Baghdad where the family live.
"I don”t know who took me," Carroll told Reuters. "I”m fine. I was treated reasonably well."
"I spent the last 36 hours in the dark," he said. "I was released into the hands of Dr. Chalabi."
Chalabi, a wealthy secular Shi”ite who returned from exile and then fell out with his former sponsors in Washington, has built up powerful links with Shi”ite clerics, including Sadr.
A British government source in London said he believed Carroll was released after two Iraqis were freed in southern Iraq, where British troops are the main occupying force: "I understand there was a swap, so it was something that was done by the Iraqis which resulted in his release and a couple of others being released who had been arrested a while ago."
FREE TO GO
Carroll, originally from Dublin, told his paper the end came when one of his captors received a mobile phone call and unbolted the door to the cell, telling him he was free to go.
"He put me in the boot of his car and drove me alone and dropped me in the middle of Baghdad," Carroll told the Guardian.
"The next move is unclear but I would like to report on Iraq in the future," he told Reuters by telephone.
Carroll”s parents said they were overjoyed after receiving a telephone call from their son shortly after his release.
"He told me that he had been released, that he was perfectly OK and in an Iraqi government compound having a beer," his father, journalist Joe Carroll, told the Guardian.
A spokesman for the British embassy in Baghdad later said: "He”s safe and well with us."
Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said the British and Irish governments had helped secure the release. Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said "a number of friends and partners" had helped".
Carroll suspected a criminal gang was behind the kidnapping, the paper added.
Earlier, angry Iraqi reporters commemorated the secretary of the Iraqi Journalists Union a day after he was shot dead.
Mohammed Haroon, 37, was the latest of more than 70 journalists and assistants whose deaths since 2003 have made the Iraq conflict the most dangerous for reporters since World War Two.