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Coalition Captures American Journalist's Kidnappers in Iraq

09 August 2006

Spokesman highlights progress of security operations, economic development

Washington – The capture of individuals allegedly involved in the kidnapping of an American journalist, ongoing efforts to reduce violence in Iraq’s capital, and successes in rebuilding a city in Northern Iraq were outlined for journalists by a spokesman for Multi-National Force – Iraq.

U.S. forces arrested four men connected with the kidnapping of American journalist Jill Carroll, who was released earlier this year after spending 82 days in captivity, Army Major General William Caldwell said at an August 9 press briefing in Baghdad, Iraq.

On January 7, Carroll, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, was abducted by gunmen who called themselves the “Vengeance Brigade.”  Over the next several weeks her captors released three videotapes of the reporter, along with demands that all female prisoners in Iraq be released.  On the afternoon of March 30, Carroll was delivered to the headquarters of a Sunni Arab political organization, with no explanation for her release.  (See related article.) 

Caldwell said that the names of those arrested are being withheld pending prosecutorial decisions by Iraqi authorities, and pursuit of leads generated by information gleaned from those arrested.     

“The hunt continues for anybody and anyone else that was involved, not only in these kidnappings, but those who scorn law and order, who disrupt democracy and who spread terror in the lives of the everyday Iraqi citizens,” Caldwell said.

EFFORTS TO SECURE BAGHDAD CONTINUE

As Iraqi and coalition forces initiate Phase Two of “Operation Together Forward,” an effort to stem the rising tide of violence in Baghdad, Caldwell noted that there has been a slight decrease in overall violence in the past five days.  However, he said, forces continue to move into the city and that it will take them several months to secure the capital.  (See related article.)

Nationwide, Caldwell said, the security picture continues to improve, as evidenced by the August 8 announcement that Iraqi forces would assume lead security responsibilities for Salah al Din and At Ta Min provinces.  (See related article.) 

Caldwell added that 11 of last week’s operations in and around Baghdad specifically targeted what continues to be a major security challenge facing Iraq: Sunni and Shi’a groups involved in sectarian kidnappings and murders.  (See related article.)

“We have extremist elements on both sides out there that continue to do nothing but incite violence and will use any means possible in order to get a flare-up between the different elements within the city,” said Caldwell.  “[T]hey can't understand that the vast majority of Iraqi people want peace, they want prosperity, they want security.  They don't want to be involved in anything else.” 

Caldwell highlighted several successes by Iraqi forces in the capital, including the breakup of two kidnapping cells, the seizure of weapons and bomb-making materials stored in a mosque in Mansour, and the capture of a high-level leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.

“As efforts focused on Baghdad to quell the surge of extremists seeking to exert control and impose their narrow, divisive view of the future of Iraq, Iraqi security forces and coalition forces continue to disrupt the terrorists and set the stage for Baghdadis to live stable lives,” Caldwell said.  (See related article.)

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT KEY TO STABILIZATION

“Military force alone cannot achieve peace,” Caldwell said, “It can only set the conditions to allow for peace to take hold and to grow.  Rebuilding damaged infrastructure and other development projects will ultimately secure the peace and prosperity desired by the Iraqi people." 

As security operations progress in Baghdad, Caldwell said, military personnel and representatives from U.S. civilian agencies such as USAID will work with local leaders to identify and complete projects that will benefit area communities.  One such project will be the construction of a $22.7-million telecommunications building, which will provide “a hub through which Iraq can connect with the global community.” 

Funded by the Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund, the site eventually will employ 400 laborers to build a seven-story headquarters for Iraq’s Ministry of Communications, as well as a post office, cafeteria and exhibition halls that Caldwell predicted would become “the focal point upon [which] the city of Baghdad can build.”

North of Baghdad, the city of Tarmiyah provides another example of peace can lead to economic development.  Since Tarmiyah was secured by Iraqi and coalition forces last May, Caldwell said, local leaders, coalition forces, and the Iraqi army have undertaken several successful development projects, including newly paved roads and a $2.4 million water system slated for completion later in 2006.   

Caldwell said the city recently held a grand opening for the new Tarmiyah Education and Youth Center, a $200,000 refurbishment project planned and built by local Iraqi contractors boasting two basketball courts, a volleyball court, two soccer fields, an art studio, a library, a theater for plays and athletic practice space.  The center, Caldwell, said, will provide a safe place for Iraqi children in their community.

In addition, Caldwell said, the city also will celebrate the opening of a new medical center in September, allowing area residents to receive quality primary care without having to travel all the way to Baghdad.  

“Tarmiyah can be literally the microcosm of Iraq, an example of diligence and creativity to build a future not through violence, but through hard work and entrepreneurship,” said Caldwell.

A transcript of Caldwell’s briefing, as well as a videolink  to that briefing are available on the Multi-National Force – Iraq Web site.

For more information, see Iraq Update.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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