Kidnapped American Journalist Still Missing

American freelance journalist Jill Carroll wanted to write stories about average Iraqis.

She traveled around Baghdad, interviewing people with the help of an Iraqi interpreter and driver. A Westerner, she donned a hijab to better blend in and learned Arabic so she could better communicate with the local population.

Her growing sense of danger in Iraq proved correct, however, as she was kidnapped over the weekend when gunmen ambushed her car and killed her translator in one of Baghdad's most dangerous neighborhoods.

More Afraid

Carroll filed reports from Baghdad for The Christian Science Monitor and other publications since 2003 and witnessed some of the dark changes in the country.

Last fall she wrote: "Baghdad has been a violent place for over two years now, but when I got back this time I noticed people were more afraid of sectarian violence than they were before."

Sectarian strife between Sunni and Shiite Arabs has intensified in recent months. With alarming frequency, Sunnis and Shiites are attacking one another in neighborhoods, at funerals and at the mosque. Some political leaders have warned that a civil war could erupt. In the last week, as many as 200 Iraqis have been killed in Iraqi-on-Iraqi attacks.

It was in this violent and erratic atmosphere that last Saturday Carroll ventured into the streets of the dangerous Al Adel neighborhood to interview a powerful Sunni politician.

About 18 months ago, British aid worker Margaret Hassan was kidnapped and killed while working in the same area. Her body has not been recovered.

Even for locals, Al Adel is a dangerous place. Last fall, an Iraqi cameraman and sound man were gunned down while conducting interviews on the same street where Carroll was abducted.

'Hostility and Fear'

Al Adel is in western Baghdad on the road to Fallujah, long considered a hotbed of the insurgency. The neighborhood is dominated by Sunnis, the sect that makes up the bulk of the insurgency. Numerous slayings have occurred there, and attacks on American and Iraqi troops with improvised explosive devices are commonplace.

In her writings, Carroll seemed to realize that Iraq was becoming more dangerous. A year ago she wrote: "After a terrifying fall when kidnapping and beheading became common, many journalists and freelancers left. There are only a few of the stalwart freelancers around now. I can't walk in the streets anymore or drop into a shop or market to talk to average Iraqis. The whole atmosphere has changed, charged with hostility and fear."