Freed American journalist responds to critics

By Jeffrey Blyth in New York

American freelance Jill Carroll, who spent almost three months as a hostage in Iraq, returned home to the hugs and kisses of her family and friends – but also a firestorm of criticism, mostly related to the comments she made on her release in Baghdad, in which she said her captors had treated her well. Carroll also drew her criticism for comments she made on a tape about America's presence in Iraq — comments which she has since rescinded.

Richard Bergenheim, the editor of the Christian Science Monitor, for whom Carroll was working when she was taken hostage, said in a statement that the comments were all made under duress and were understandable.

Senator John McCain, who spent five years as a prisoner of war in north Vietnam, agreed and on American television said many prisoners would have done the same. The tape she made should not be taken seriously, he suggested.

Safely back in Boston, her hometown, Carroll said in a statement issued by the Christian Science Monitor that on her last night in captivity, she had been forced to make the tape and assured that if she made it she would be let go. "Things I said are now being taken as by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not. The people who kidnapped me and murdered my translator are criminals at best. I am deeply angry at them."

On Carroll's return to the US, there were also suggestions that a deal had been made, that money had changed hands. But that has been denied both by the US government and the Christian Science Monitor.

The 28-year-old newswoman is now spending time in seclusion with her family and has so far given no interviews. Her only comment to journalists here was: "I finally feel I am alive again. I feel so good". Her editor has said she will ultimately write her own account of the time she spent in captivity.

Photo: Reuters.

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