Jill Carroll's captors on Friday set another deadline for the U.S. to meet their demands, threatening to kill Carroll if their condition that all women held in U.S. and Iraqi jails be freed is not met by Feb. 26. (The original deadline Carroll's kidnappers gave was Jan. 19.)
The announcement came from Jassem Boudai, who owns the Kuwaiti TV station Al-Rai, and who seems (or claims) to know an awful lot about Carroll's situation. "Sources close to the kidnappers informed Al-Rai TV that the kidnappers have set a Feb. 26 deadline for their demands to be met or they will execute her according to Shariah," Boudai told the Associated Press. He also said that Carroll's kidnappers have "more specific demands" than just the release of female prisoners (but he wouldn't say what those demands were); that Carroll was being held "in a safe house owned by one of the kidnappers in downtown Baghdad with a group of women"; and that Carroll was holding up well and doing housework with the other women in the safe house. He declined to say how the station was communicating with Carroll's captors.
Al-Rai also aired a new video of Carroll, on Thursday, in which she speaks directly to the camera. (Two previous videos have appeared on Al-Jazeera, but both ran without sound.) The Christian Science Monitor, for whom Carroll was on assignment at the time of her kidnapping, posted the following transcript of the new video:
"Today is Thursday, February 6 -- [corrects herself] -- February 2, 2006. I'm with the mujahideen. I sent you a letter written by my hand that you wanted more evidence so we're sending you this new letter now just to prove that I am with the mujahideen. I'm here, I'm fine. Please, just do whatever they want, give them whatever they want as quickly as possible. There is very short time; please do it fast. That's all."
Another Al-Rai spokesperson, Hani al-Srougi, said the station received a letter from Carroll along with the video, but would not discuss its contents. He also said the station would turn the letter over to authorities (though whether that means U.S. or Kuwaiti is unclear).
Of course, it's difficult to know what relationship, if any, exists between U.S. actions and decisions by Carroll's captors. Her kidnappers let one deadline pass, so why not another? If, as some have suggested, the unrelated release of several Iraqi prisoners around the time of the last deadline helped keep Carroll alive, who's to say her captors would free her if more were released, instead of just keeping her for further bargaining? (In any event, an Iraqi official told the AP there were no immediate plans to release additional female prisoners.) And, the AP notes, the kidnappers' official demands may just be a smoke screen to impress their supporters; they may just want a ransom.
Whatever the circumstances, it's a relief to know that Carroll still seems to be alive. For more information on efforts to free her, see the Christian Science Monitor's page, here.