A top Iraqi official tells ABC News that he believes Jill Carroll is alive and that he believes she will be released, even though the latest deadline for the kidnapped journalist has passed with no news of her fate.
Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr al Zubaidi said he knew who had abducted the 28-year-old journalist.
"We know his name and address, and we are following up on him as well as the Americans," Zubaidi said. "I think she is still alive."
Carroll, a freelancer for The Christian Science Monitor, was kidnapped Jan. 7 in Baghdad and was last seen in a videotape broadcast Feb. 9 by the private Kuwaiti television station Al-Rai. The station owner, Jassem Boudai, said at the time that the kidnappers had set Feb. 26 as the deadline for U.S. and Iraqi authorities to meet their demands. They have threatened to kill Carroll. Iraqi police conducted raids in search of Carroll on Sunday.
The minister said the problem was that authorities don't know where Carroll was being held, and that the original kidnappers may have sold her to a more radical group. Plus, he said, their demands could change.
"They want to get more and more," he said. "The release of women, the release of some bad guys from the terrorists and maybe at the end they will need money."
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S ambassador to Iraq, told ABC News that he also believed Carroll was alive.
"We do believe that she is in fact alive," Khalilzad said on "Good Morning America."
"I have discussed the issue with the interior minister. As I said, we will work as hard as we can to get her released. She clearly is in a dangerous situation, but we're working hard with the Iraqis and others to get her released. That's what we're working for."
Pleas for Release
The Bush administration, Hamas, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the student newspaper at the University of Massachusetts have called for Carroll's release.
A woman who answered the phone Sunday morning at Carroll's mother's house said the family had no new information and politely declined comment.
Richard Bergenheim, editor of The Christian Science Monitor said in a statement: "The Carroll family and The Christian Science Monitor continue to follow developments in Iraq very carefully. We appreciate the wide ranging efforts being made by Iraqi and U.S. officials to secure Jill's release. We hope that today's encouraging statements about Jill's condition and prospects for a safe return are proved correct."
Since Carroll's capture, Iraqi television has aired three videos of her. In the first, aired on al Jazeera on Jan. 17, her abductors threatened to kill her unless the United States freed female prisoners in Iraq.
The second and third videos were broadcast without sound. In the second, aired on al Jazeera, the broadcaster said Carroll asked for the release of the female prisoners. The third video was aired on Al-Rai.
The deadline comes as Iraqi security forces deal with a sectarian crisis that erupted after bombers destroyed the golden dome of the Shiite Askariya shrine, triggering a wave of reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques in Baghdad and other cities.
The violence has pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war and threatens to sabotage American plans to establish a government of national unity capable of calming the Sunni-led insurgency so U.S. troops can begin to go home.