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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 October 2005, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
Freed reporter 'feared beheading'
Rory Carroll (Guardian handout/PA)

A journalist who was kidnapped in Baghdad on Wednesday is preparing to fly home to his family in Dublin.

Guardian reporter Rory Carroll was taken at gunpoint in the suburb of Sadr City but freed after 36 hours.

He told the BBC he feared he would be held for months or even beheaded like previous hostages.

Mr Carroll, 33, said he owed his release to a joint effort from the British and Irish governments and "possibly the Iranian government".

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme just before he left Baghdad, he said the "crucial character" in securing the release was Iraq's deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi.

"He used his influence," said Mr Carroll.

'Police' car

The journalist was abducted in Sadr City in eastern Baghdad while driving down a quiet road with his driver and interpreter.

Since hostages started having their heads sawn off we have all been obsessed by it
Rory Carroll

He said three cars, including a police car, blocked his way. He was then surrounded by half a dozen gunmen.

"There was one, possibly two men in police uniform," Mr Carroll said.

"Whether they were real policemen who were moonlighting as kidnappers, all I can say is the vehicles and uniforms appeared to looked genuine."

Mr Carroll said he was forced at gunpoint out of his car and into one of the unmarked vehicles.

He was handcuffed and driven away with his head pushed down on the floor of the car.

Mr Carroll earlier spoke of his ordeal in an interview with BBC Baghdad correspondent Caroline Hawley.

"I was forced to strip, they told me to take off all my clothes and they gave me more Iraqi looking clothes," he said.

He was told by his main captor that he had been abducted "to be used as a bargaining chip in an effort to obtain the release of some Shia militia man who had been detained in Basra by British forces".

'No ransom'

While held captive in a small basement room, Mr Carroll said he was treated like an "exotic pet that would be taken out on occasion to be fed and watered but basically needed to be restrained".

Ahmed Chalabi
Mr Carroll said Iraq's deputy PM helped secure his release

Some 36 hours later, he found himself in the boot of a car.

"I found there was a little canister of what I think was an oil spray," he said.

"I thought this could have to double up as mace if it turned out that when the boot finally opened if I was confronted with a bunch of potential beheading kidnappers then I could at least enter into the feeble effort to try to spray them with the mace."

Writing in Saturday's Guardian he added being kidnapped was a moment he had dreaded.

"A potential death sentence for Iraqi staff as well as the foreign correspondents who are the targets."

"Since hostages started having their heads sawn off we have all been obsessed by it," he said.

He said the driver of the car in which he was abducted had said to him: "Tawhid al-Jihad".

"Otherwise known as.... the beheaders of Ken Bigley. I stopped breathing," he went on.

Mr Bigley, an engineer from Liverpool, was beheaded in October 2004. His body has not been found.

Mr Carroll is now expected to fly from Kuwait to London and then on to Dublin.

His father Joe said he was hoping his son would visit his family at their Blackrock home this weekend.

Republic of Ireland Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern has said no ransom was paid for the release of Mr Carroll.

But he refused to say whether Iraqi prisoners had been freed in a deal.


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