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US reporter's freedom leaves Iraqis happy, bitter

Written by: Staff
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BAGHDAD, Mar 30: Iraqis welcomed the release of US journalist Jill Carroll today but criticised their leaders for paying too much attention to a foreign hostage while ignoring their own daily suffering.

Youssef Zaya said journalists such as Carroll should never be kidnapped because they inform the world of Iraq's tragedies.

''How could they kidnap a weak woman? She is not threatening us. On the contrary she is a journalist showing the whole world our tragedy. This act harmed the reputation of Iraq,'' said the 27-year-old mobile telephone dealer.

The Christian Science Monitor reporter was seized from a Baghdad street on Januari 7 and her translator was killed. Her captors threatened several times to kill her.

Appeals for her release were broadcast on Iraqi state television and politicians demanded her freedom in news conferences. US and Iraqi forces launched raids on suspected insurgent hideouts to try and rescue her.

Leading clerics from across the Arab world also worked for her release.

Some Iraqis said they could not understand why the plight of one American journalist mattered so much while the daily threat of bombings, shootings and kidnappings in Baghdad didn't jolt their leaders into action.

Thousands of Iraqis have also been abducted.

IRAQI DETAINEES

 ''I feel so sorry that our government is paying more attention to foreigners than Iraqis. They made a lot of noise about Carroll but not a single official spoke about Iraqi detainees, especially women,'' said Amir Abdulzahra, 42, a shop owner.

''That's because our government is not national. The Americans brought them.'' Kidnappers, including Carroll's, have demanded the release of Iraqi prisoners held in US-run jails such as Abu Ghraib, the site of a prisoner abuse scandal in 2004. Iraqi leaders rarely discuss Iraqi detainees in public, fuelling suspicions the United States still runs much of the show.

Mohammed Kamal suggested the kidnapping was justified.

''Kidnapping a journalist is uncivilised. But let me tell you frankly, the world is not paying any attention to the Iraqi prisoners, especially women,'' said the 32-year-old computer specialist.

''This is the only way to push the Americans to reconsider jailing Iraqi women. The Americans only understand the language of force.'' Carroll's freedom was a rare piece of good news for some Iraqis who watch sectarian violence tear their country further apart every day as politicians struggle to form a government more than three months after elections.

''This should have happened a while ago. She was presenting a humanitarian service, she was not carrying a gun and fighting,'' said Khairi Mahir, 47.

In Boston, Richard Bergenheim, the editor of The Christian Science Monitor, also noted Iraqis are kidnapped daily.

''The world doesn't hear their voices or the voices of their families. They deserve attention and their freedom no less than Jill ... The Christian Science Monitor will not let these people be forgotten.''

 REUTERS

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