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Freed journalist returns to America

By Glen Johnson THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

BOSTON – Jill Carroll, the U.S. journalist held hostage for 82 days in Iraq, returned to the United States yesterday aboard a commercial flight to Boston, saying “I finally feel like I am alive again.”

The 28-year-old was accompanied on the Lufthansa flight by a colleague from her employer, the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor, which posted a news story about her return on its Web site two hours after her flight landed. Carroll has been kept out of view of other reporters.

“I finally feel like I am alive again. I feel so good,” Carroll said, according to the newspaper. “To be able to step outside anytime, to feel the sun directly on your face – to see the whole sky. These are luxuries that we just don’t appreciate every day.”

Carroll left the airport in a black limousine escorted by state police and arrived a short time later at the newspaper’s headquarters, where she was reunited with her parents and twin sister.

Monitor spokesman Jay Jostyn said Carroll had no plans to speak publicly yesterday.

She was released Thursday after nearly three months in captivity. She was seized Jan. 7 in western Baghdad by gunmen who killed her Iraqi translator while the two were on the way to meet a Sunni Arab official in one of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods.

On her flight, Carroll was touched to find a red rose on her dinner tray, the Monitor reported. Later, a flight steward dropped off a copy of Friday’s USA Today in which she saw her own face framed by a black head scarf. It was a photo of the giant poster that had been erected in Rome.

She was tickled to see pictures of her family and kissed the photo of her father, Jim Carroll. “He looks good,” she said, and ran her fingers over the photo of her mom, Mary Beth, the Monitor reported.

Carroll left the Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany on Saturday after arriving from Balad Air Base in Baghdad. She strongly disavowed statements she had made during captivity in Iraq and shortly after her release, saying she had been repeatedly threatened.

In a video recorded before she was freed and posted by her captors on an Islamist Web site, Carroll spoke out against the U.S. military presence. On Saturday, she said the recording was made under duress.

“During my last night in captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me I would be released if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. So I agreed,” she said in a statement.

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