For the first time since she was released by Iraqi insurgents, freelance writer Jill Carroll is speaking out about her 82 days in captivity, saying the entire time she was "terrified" as she felt at any moment her captors could come in and blow her head off.
In an exclusive interview with her employer, The Christian Science Monitor, provided first to ABC News, she describes the moment on Jan. 7 when she was kidnapped on the street in Baghdad.
Armed insurgents stormed her car and killed her friend and translator, Allan Enwiya, 32, right before her eyes.
"I was bending down and kind of being shoved over, I was looking out at the crack of the door. … I saw Allan was there, and I saw them kill Allan," she said. "Then, they got in the car, and we drove off. They were screaming, 'Jihad, Jihad, Jihad!' They were overjoyed, like they had won the lottery."
For full coverage of Jill Carroll's story visit www.csmonitor.com
When the incident occurred, the 28-year-old and her translator were going to interview a Sunni politician in a neighborhood deemed safe enough for a visit.
"There was a handful of what Western journalists considered no-go neighborhoods in Baghdad -- his office wasn't in that category yet," Carroll said. "I was dressed in a black hijab that hid my hair and Western clothes. We'd been to Mr. Dulaimi's office several times before without a problem. Our last trip had been two days earlier to set up this interview.
"In retrospect, that was a fatal mistake; we had given someone 48 hours to prepare for our return," she said.
Delayed Meeting Leads to Capture
When Carroll and her Iraqi translator arrived for their last interview together in Baghdad, they were told the politician was not available and were asked to return a few hours later. When they got into their car, their driver began to pull away but they were stopped abruptly.
"Suddenly a large blue truck with red and yellow trim backed out of a driveway in front of us, completely blocking the road. Several men were standing around it, motioning to help it back out," she said. "But in an instant they turned, trained pistols on us, and briskly approached the car. … It was a routine we had become familiar with in Baghdad, where private security details often brandish weapons to clear a path for their clients."
But this time, the men didn't lower their weapons.
"The man closest to the car, a rotund person with salt-and-pepper stubble, had his gun aimed right through the windshield at Adnan," Carroll said. "My eyes were glued to him. I was confused about why he didn't lower his pistol."
The gunmen then ran at them, her driver and translator were taken from the car, and she was kidnapped.
Tears and a Plea For Her Life
After Carroll was abducted, she would remain with the Iraqi insurgents for 82 days. During that time, she said she was moved between at least six different houses.
Her captors fed her well, but her terror rarely abated.
"The bread would just stick in my throat," she said. "I felt sick to my stomach, like I wanted to throw up. I remember chewing chicken in my mouth that first day, and trying to swallow it, and having this gagging in my throat.
"Your adrenaline's going and you're terrified and your heart is racing," she said. "And you're sitting there. You don't know what's going to happen at any minute. For all you know, they're just going to come in at any moment and blow your head off."
She said one of her most terrifying moments occurred when U.S. soldiers came very close to the house where she was detained and her chief captor confronted her, asking if she had something hidden in her hair.
"Then he grabbed my head scarf and pulled it off," she said. "Then he took my little hair thing out, so my hair was loose. So, he could see there was no cell phone hidden in my hair. No chip implanted in my scalp, like a homing device or something."
She was then asked if someone in her government signaled the military.
"I was like, 'no!' I was hysterical," she said. "I became overly anxious … to show him I would never want to do this, I would never bring soldiers to this place."
She would later be asked by her captors to make the first in a series of hostage videos.
The request brought to mind for Carroll other hostage videos broadcast on al-Jazeera where victims made their plea and were then murdered in front of the cameras.
"I thought, 'Oh God, that's going to be me,' " Carroll said.
During her taping, they wanted her to cry and demand the release of Iraq women prisoners.
"By the end of it … I was really crying," she said. "It just sort of came out, all of the frustration and the stress. Then they said, 'You know what? You didn't cry enough in that video. You have to do again.' "
"It was really wrenching," she added. "I can't tell you how hard it is. I mean, you're sitting on TV pleading for your life.
"I knew what that meant: It means in three or four days they put you in al-Jazeera to do it again to cut your head off," Carroll said.
The videos helped spark a global movement spearheaded by her parents, who made public pleas for her release.
On March 30, she was freed and was dropped off at the headquarters of an Islamic political party. She was interviewed by party officials, but critics were jarred by what were initially positive statements about her captors.
Carroll now says she was not well-treated -- and that she still felt threatened when she made that statement.
"People need to understand that: I think they sort of forget that, literally, these are people that will kill you at any moment," she said. "So, especially after a few months or a few weeks, you are not thinking normally. Even after a few days you are not thinking normally at all, and you are just in sort of a massive survival mode."
ABC News will have more of Carroll's interview Monday on "Good Morning America."