The US military said yesterday it would release five Iraqi women detainees, a move demanded by the kidnappers of a US reporter to spare her life. A US official said the release had nothing to do with the kidnappers' demand.
The women were due to be freed yesterday and today as part of a release of 419 Iraqis after officials concluded there was no reason to keep holding them, Lieutenant Colonel Guy Rudisill, spokesman for the US detention command, said.
Armed men abducted Jill Carroll, a freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, on Jan. 7 in Baghdad and threatened to kill her unless all Iraqi women prisoners were released.
The US military confirmed last week it was holding nine Iraqi women. Yesterday, however, the military said it had detained two more women and three men for alleged insurgent activities in the northern city of Mosul.
Detainees are regularly freed in Iraq following reviews of their cases, a process that can take months, and US officials have said the upcoming releases were part of the routine procedure and not linked to Carroll's case.
A top Iraqi official and the mother of one of the Iraqi female detainees confirmed the imminent releases, saying they were expecting them to occur yesterday.
Busho Ibrahim Ali, the deputy justice minister, said five female detainees were expected to be released from the Camp Cropper detention center on a US base near Baghdad International Airport.
Ali said the women would be brought to the heavily fortified Green Zone, where the Iraqi government and US Embassy are based in Baghdad, and handed over to a senior Sunni Arab political leader and received by their families.
Detainees are usually transported from detention centers to a Baghdad bus station or to towns near their homes and let go.
Siham Faraj, the mother of 28-year-old Hala Khalid, who was arrested with her brother on Sept. 24 during a dawn raid by US forces on their Baghdad home, said she was waiting anxiously to see her daughter and hoped it would lead to Carroll's safe release.
``We are happy and we thank God for this blessing,'' Faraj said. ``I call upon the kidnappers of the American reporter to release her because she is as innocent as Hala.''
``I wish the Americans would stop random arrests. We only want peace in this country,'' Faraj added.