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Reporter pleads for her release 'as quickly as possible'

New video airs of American seized in Iraq

BAGHDAD -- Kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll appeared in a video aired yesterday on a private Kuwaiti TV station, appealing for her supporters to do whatever it takes to win her release ''as quickly as possible."

Carroll, talking in a calm, composed voice and wearing traditional Arab attire, said the date was Feb. 2, nearly a month after she was seized in Baghdad by armed men who killed her Iraqi translator. She was shown sitting on a chair in front of a wall with a large floral design.

The 28-year-old freelance reporter for The Christian Science Monitor said she had sent one letter and was sending another to ''prove I am with the mujahideen."

''I sent you a letter written by my hand, but you wanted more evidence," she said. ''I am here. I am 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."

The 22-second video was carried by Alrai TV, a private Kuwaiti channel, and included audio, unlike two previous videos of Carroll that were broadcast by Al-Jazeera television. A producer at Al-Jazeera said the station did not receive any letters with the videos it aired.

After yesterday's broadcast, Carroll's family issued a brief statement through The Christian Science Monitor, saying only that ''the family is hopeful and grateful to all those working on Jill's behalf."

The newspaper also issued a statement:

''It is always difficult to see someone speaking under coercion and under these circumstances," said Monitor editor Richard Bergenheim. ''We are seeking more information about the letter that Jill refers to in the video. We remain in constant contact with Jill's family and are still doing everything possible to obtain Jill's release."

The new video was delivered earlier yesterday to Al Rai's Baghdad office and was aired in its entirety, said Hani al-Srougi, an editor at the station's headquarters in Kuwait. It was accompanied by a letter written by Carroll.

The newscaster said the station would hand the letter to authorities but did not say whether they would give it to Kuwaiti or American officials. The station said it would not disclose the letter's contents.

On Jan. 30, Al-Jazeera showed Carroll weeping, and the station said she appealed for the release of female Iraqi prisoners.

Earlier yesterday, an Iraqi deputy justice minister said US forces are expected to release about 450 male Iraqi detainees next Thursday. None of the four or five women believed to be in custody is expected to be freed, Busho Ibrahim Ali said.

Armed men abducted Carroll on Jan. 7 in western Baghdad. Responsibility was claimed by the previously unknown ''Revenge Brigades." Five foreigners were kidnapped in Iraq last month, including Carroll, two Germans, and two Kenyan engineers.

US officials have refused to discuss Carroll's kidnapping for fear of endangering her life.

However, some Iraqi and foreign security officials not directly involved in the case believe that in virtually all kidnappings, ransom money is the main goal and kidnappers present political or other demands to justify the act to their supporters.

The new tape was broadcast after millions of Iraqi Shi'ites marked their holiest day yesterday with processions, prayers, and self-flagellation. Stringent security prevented a repeat of major attacks by Sunni religious extremists on the annual Ashoura commemorations. In the past two years, attackers killed a total of more than 230 people on Ashoura.

More than 1 million people braved sandstorms to join rituals in Karbala, featuring blood-soaked processions and self-flagellation rites that mark the seventh-century death of the revered Shi'ite martyr, Imam Hussein, who is believed buried there.

Huge crowds turned out for Ashoura celebrations in Baghdad's Kazimiyah district and other Shi'ite shrines throughout the country.

In Karbala, the major Ashoura venue, 50 miles south of Baghdad, about 8,000 security officers and extra Shi'ite militiamen frisked pilgrims and blocked vehicles to prevent attacks by Sunni Arab suicide bombers.

Unmanned US drones flew overhead to help assure the safety of the worshipers, some of whom journeyed from as far as India and Pakistan.

Ashoura marks the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, in the battle of Karbala in A.D. 680. The battle cemented the schism in Islam between Shi'ites and Sunnis. Shi'ites make up only about 15 percent of the world's Muslims but are the majority sect in Iraq.

The ceremonies occurred during heightened sectarian tensions between Shi'ites and Sunni Arabs, marked by a campaign of reprisal kidnappings and killings.

A Sunni Arab tribal chief, Sheik Rasheed Safi, and four relatives were found dead yesterday in Baghdad, police said. They had disappeared Wednesday after attending a funeral, said relatives, who alleged that the five were abducted by Shi'ite death squads.

The United States is promoting efforts to form a new unity government comprising Shi'ites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds in hopes of luring Sunnis away from the insurgency.

In Karbala and elsewhere, marchers dressed in black slapped chains across their backs until their clothes were soaked with blood. Others beat their heads with the flat side of long swords and knives until blood ran freely in a ritual banned under ousted leader Saddam Hussein, a Sunni.

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