AC: Where is Jill Carroll?

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ANDERSON COOPER: Tonight, the fate of an American journalist held hostage in Iraq remains unknown. Jill Carroll was abducted January 7. Her captors said they would kill the 28-year-old unless all Iraqi women in detention were freed. Well, that deadline passed six days ago. Today, the U.S. military released five Iraqi women from custody. Officials said it was not linked to the demands made by the hostage takers. But could their release help free Carroll? Tonight I took that up with Michael Ware. He's the Baghdad Bureau Chief for "TIME" Magazine. He knows Jill Carroll and was once taken hostage himself. I talked to him earlier.


COOPER: So today, U.S. military releases five Iraqi female detainees. Does it make any difference in the Jill Carroll situation?

MICHAEL WARE, TIME MAGAZINE BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Well, I think it's going to play into the mix somehow. In what manner, we don't know yet, but this is definitely going to be painted by the insurgents or the kidnappers as a win for them.

COOPER: Yes, how can it not be because, I mean, the U.S. has gone to great lengths to say, oh, look, this was in the works anyway. This is not a quid pro quo, but...

WARE: It doesn't matter how they try to spin it, Anderson. I mean, this is going to be seen as a coup. The great fear is this now makes it open season on journalists in Iraq. This is the first thing that can be perceived as a concession by the U.S. military or the Iraqi government. I'm afraid that this could be the thin end of the wedge.

COOPER: It's also, I mean I think a lot of people don't get what it's like working in Iraq, kind of the risk that you take, you know, just on a daily basis, just stepping outside. Jill Carroll was one of those people. She was basically a freelancer. She didn't have a security detail. And, you know, when I first heard about it, it sent shudders through me because that's how I started, you know, just bumming around with myself, a little home video camera.

WARE: Yeah, look, it's frightening. I mean, Iraq is not a story that can easily be covered by freelancers who are operating on a shoestring budget. I mean, to move outside of a secure hotel compound, you need at least two vehicles. You need two, three, four armed gunmen. You need a driver, a translator. That costs money.

COOPER: When I was last in Iraq, one of our security guys said to me, you know, you have to decide would you want to be taken. Would you allow yourself to be taken? That's a decision everyone has to make.

Have you -- I mean, you've had some very close calls.

WARE: I've been taken, yes.

COOPER: You were taken.

WARE: Yes. Yes. As far as we're aware, I'm the only Westerner to have been in the custody of Zarqawi's al Qaeda organization and to have so far lived to tell the tale.

COOPER: And what was it like?

WARE: I was only held very, very briefly. They swarmed my vehicle, intercepting it in the street. They hauled me out with weapons and live grenades with the pins pulled. And then they immediately had me under one of Zarqawi's infamous banners and were preparing to execute me there, just off the street.

When they pulled me out, they took me around behind the building where there was another banner and they thrust me down beneath that and were preparing to kill me then and there and to film it with my own video camera.

COOPER: In those first moments, when you are taken and when you realize, you know, what's happening, you suddenly realize, oh my God, this is -- this is it.

WARE: Yes.

COOPER: What goes through your mind?

WARE: Put it this way. It took me a long time to recover from that first moment, Anderson, if I have at all. When I did manage to get out, when the Baathists forced my release, and I made it back to my home compound, I didn't leave that compound for three days. I barely left my room.

COOPER: I mean, can you talk your way out of -- can a Jill Carroll, who speaks Arabic...


COOPER: Does it matter what she says?


COOPER: Does it matter that she makes -- you know, whenever you're kidnapped somewhere else, you're supposed to make yourself into a human in front of their eyes.

WARE: In some degree, it depends on who has you. In Jill's case, it's still unclear precisely who it is. Unfortunately, in most cases, no, it doesn't matter. I mean, the sense that a journalist has the protection of being an objective observer, a portrayer of the truth and a carrier of messages holds no estate in Iraq whatsoever. They don't care what you've been doing. You are a commodity, either financially or politically to them. There's a ruthlessness that we're seeing particularly in regard to journalists, that is unparalleled within this conflict.