Strategic Appeals May Have Freed Carroll

March 30, 2006 -- -- Jill Carroll's family and friends say they're thrilled the 28-year-old freelance reporter was released by her captors in Iraq.

"Today is just a wonderful day of rejoicing," said Richard Bergenheim, editor of The Christian Science Monitor. Carroll was working for the Monitor at the time of her capture.

But Carroll, who says she was confined to a small room for the 82 days, is just learning about the extraordinary effort that was made to see her free and safe.

The journalist was left by her captors on a Baghdad street in front of a Sunni political party office. Following her release, Carroll said she was not mistreated or harmed by her kidnappers.

During the ordeal, Carroll's family -- and her employer -- were coached by FBI agents who specialize in the art of hostage rescue.

They helped craft a message that was consistent throughout the entire ordeal and was part of a carefully coordinated campaign which began shortly after the public learned of Carroll's abduction.

"She has lived in Iraq for almost three years, has many Iraqi friends, and respects their culture," Jill's sister, Katie Carroll, said in a televised plea to the captors. "My sister has always had special praise for the strength and resilience of Iraqi women and mothers."

Early on, her employer distributed photographs that showed Carroll wearing an Islamic headscarf.

The images were presented to prominent Sunni politicians, including Adnan al-Dulaimi, a Sunni politician and the man Carroll was going to interview at the time of her capture.

"Release this journalist who came to Iraq to cover our situation, to defend our rights," al-Dulaimi pleaded in Arabic.

Hostage crisis experts believe public appeals like these are directly heard by the hostage takers.

"I think they do sit around and watch television, they read the newspaper, many of them are on the Internet," explained Bob Klamser, co-founder and executive director of Crisis Consulting International. "I think these messages almost always get to the captors. They certainly have in my experience."

To help make that point, the Christian Science Monitor republished on its Web site several of the articles Jill Carroll wrote in Iraq, including stories that describe the hardships of ordinary Iraqis and the concerns of Iraq's Sunni minority.

In the end, the public appeals may or may not have directly led to Jill Carroll's release, but today Carroll is free and those messages and pleas apparently didn't hurt.