In Iraq, Kidnapping to Make Political Statement, Profit


Jan. 18, 2006 — -- Last week's abduction of Jill Carroll, a reporter for The Christian Science Monitor, and the agonizing wait for her kidnappers' response is another reminder of the danger faced by journalists and aid workers in Iraq every day.

Carroll was kidnapped while traveling to interview Adnan Al Duaimi, a well-known Sunni political leader here in Baghdad. Her driver narrowly escaped but her translator was shot and killed.

More than 240 foreigners have been kidnapped since the insurgency in Iraq began; at least 39 of them have been killed.

Carroll is the 31st journalist taken since the invasion almost three years ago. During the past few months, a rash of kidnappings of Westerners has made foreigners even more wary of traveling and working in Iraq.

In a rare moment of good fortune on Sunday, Phil Sands, a young British journalist who was kidnapped and held for five days was accidentally rescued when American forces burst into a house where he was being held captive. Because he worked alone, nobody had even noticed he was missing.

"There were footsteps and a bang at the door," said Sands. "It burst open, and two young American soldiers came in with flashlights."

Those still missing or remaining captive include four Christian peace workers.

Norman Kember of Great Britain, Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden, and American Tom Fox. Like Carroll, they were traveling without security. Only large organizations can afford the protection of armed guards.

Some freelance journalists on small budgets live in heavily protected compounds and travel in Baghdad to their interviews as discreetly as possible. They literally risk their lives every time they leave their compounds.

Kidnapping of Iraqis is common here. Sometimes it's about politics, often it's about money. On Tuesday, gunmen captured a busload of 50 new Iraqi police recruits. They were returning from a test at the police academy.

In another incident on the same day, two foreign telecom engineers were abducted in a deadly armed attack. At least 10 Iraqi security guards were killed as they escorted them through Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Bayan Jabr Solagh, the sister of the Iraqi interior minister, was released in Baghdad after being held for two weeks. Westerners and especially journalists are seen as rich targets for kidnappings, as they command a high price and get attention in the media.

When you work here every day it is easy to lose sight of the danger. You know the risk is there, but sometimes you are so busy it blends into the background. That is, until one of your colleagues goes missing.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events