Jill Carroll is one of the only Americans to gain intimate exposure to the Iraqi insurgency and live to talk about the experience.
For full coverage of Jill Carroll's story visit www.csmonitor.com
While captive for 82 days in Iraq, Carroll tried to stay alive by appearing sympathetic to her captors, telling them that as a reporter she would tell their story once she was freed.
The insurgents allowed her to conduct occasional interviews about their organization in which she learned that they belonged to an insurgent council, including members of al Qaeda.
"The main captor during all these interviews I would do was anxious to tell me about this. He told me his name was Abdullah Rashid," she said. "He said he had helped form this council … in Iraq that brought together some of the main Sunni insurgent groups, and he was the head of it. One of those groups in that council was al Qaeda and Zarqawi."
She was held from Jan. 7 through March 30, months before Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in Iraq. Her captors told her that Zarqawi had inspired them.
"Al Qaeda and the whole idea of global jihad was their real overachieving motivation and ideological guide. And they loved Zarqawi. He was … a superhero to them," Carroll said. "They all worshipped him. … They would play his sermons for me all the time. … I would hear them talk about this council, and the council was always meeting and making decisions about things … regarding me."
Now that Zarqawi is dead, Carroll said, Rashid is a "powerful" insurgent.
Suicide Vest and Insurgent Attacks
During her time in captivity, the insurgents moved Carroll between what she believed were seven different houses. One location was like a clubhouse, where they created improvised explosive devices for roadside attacks.
"They would build bombs during the day and then go plant them … at night, and blow them up the next day," Carroll said.
"One of the guys had a suicide vest on that he had made himself. It was a vest full of like, TNT and dynamite. He said, 'Come look at my vest,'" she said.
"I would say, 'No, I don't want to see your vest. I don't want to know anything about it.' I didn't know what could be dangerous to know or to be secret. It's also weird and scary, seeing someone standing in front of you with 20 sticks of dynamite. … I was already scared enough," she said.
They frequently questioned her about her connection to the military, accusing her of being a spy and checking to see if she was hiding a cell phone.
"Combating this whole spy thing, and the whole cell phone thing was a theme of almost my entire time. … They think the military can pinpoint your location if you have a cell phone turned on," she said. "Any time a helicopter would fly over, any tank would go by, anything, I would pray to God that they wouldn't notice it."
Throughout the experience, Carroll also noticed a few small children in the houses, including a 5-year-old, whose parents helped capture and guard Carroll.
"He was really cute," she said, talking about the 5-year-old. And he wants to be a holy warrior," she said. "It was this entire family unit. … If you're going to combat insurgency, you have to kill the entire family or something. Or imprison the entire family. That 5-year-old boy is going to grow up and pick up a gun one day and start shooting. Obviously, he's being trained for that."
One night in the kitchen, one of the men explained proudly that his wife wanted to be a suicide bomber; she blushed from his praises.
"And she had three little kids sitting there playing … and they're making dinner and she's four months pregnant. I was stunned, I didn't know what to say," Carroll said.
Reciting Shakespeare to Pass the Time
Carroll's captors began teaching her the Koran, which she agreed to because she saw it as a way to save her life.
"This is the center of their universe. Nothing is more sacred or more important to them. How are you going to say no to something that is that important to them?" she said.
So Carroll would memorize passages from the Koran as they read to her for hours at a time.
That still left plenty of time for her to think. At first, Carroll thought about making an escape but options were limited. She found a way out of one of the houses she was in but knew it was a last resort because she would be a target once she left.
She then came up with ways to keep her mind busy while she sat around with nothing to do for most of the day.
"I would sing a lot of songs to myself. I had actually memorized a couple of soliloquies by Shakespeare for this very reason -- I always thought someday I would be kidnapped. I knew the worst part would be sitting around trying to figure out how to stay sane," she said.
When the day came when her captors told her she would be freed, she didn't believe it.
"I was like, 'oh yeah, right, oh sure.' I heard that before," Carroll said. "I remember consciously saying to myself, 'Jill, don't get your hopes up. Just forget about it.'"
Several days later, on March 30, she was given new clothes and put in a car. She still thought they were going to kill her until one of the insurgents began to offer her money.
She said he began doling out $100 bills, including one for her mother and father, to say they were "sorry" for her trouble. She recalled thinking it was "weird" that each bill was about paying their debt to her for her time.
She was then pushed out of the car and left to wander the streets of Baghdad.
"I was in these high heels, and the scarves were flapping in my face, and I couldn't see," she said. "Everyone thinks that it's like crossing a finish line or something like, 'woohoo, I'm done.' But it isn't that way, at all. … You're dazed."
Another group of people picked her up and dropped her off at the Iraqi Islamic Party headquarters. She feared the insurgents would capture her again.
"As far as I was concerned, they were everywhere. They had eyes everywhere, and they were watching me," Carroll said.
Eventually some of her friends from The Washington Post arrived, and she knew she was safe. She was later transported to Germany and then on arrived home in Boston on April 3..
Carroll was freed, but she still feels responsible for her friend and translator, Allan Enwiya, who was killed the day she was captured in Baghdad as they went to conduct an interview with an Iraqi politican.
"Absolutely, 100 percent," she said. "If he hadn't been working with me, he would be alive. If we hadn't made that appointment two days ahead of time, to give the kidnappers forewarning, this never would have happened."
ABC News' Nancy Chandross contributed to this report.