CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- Editor’s note: Marines from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 captured three insurgents responsible for the kidnapping and detention of Jill Carroll, an American journalist for the Christian Science Monitor, May 19. Intelligence gleaned from that raid led to the capture of one more, by Marines from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment. This story was written shortly after, but held due to intelligence value. Jill Carroll since announced she will detail her captivity in an 11-part series. Only now can the story of those who captured her kidnappers be told.
Jill Carroll’s kidnappers are now themselves locked up.
Marines captured four members of an insurgent kidnapping cell responsible for the kidnapping of American journalist Jill Carroll of the Christian Science Monitor.
Marines of L Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment captured and detained three members May 19, in a small village west of Fallujah. A fourth member of the same kidnapping cell was detained later by Marines of 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment.
Both battalions operated as part of Regimental Combat Team 5.
Carroll was held hostage by insurgent captors for 82 days between January and March 2006.
“A piece of intelligence came to our attention a month prior to May that the kidnap house might be in a certain area,” said 2nd Lt. J. H. Cusack, Scout-Sniper Platoon commander, Headquarters and Support Company.
But the information wasn’t enough for Marines to act upon. They needed more. One month went by before another clue gave them the green light.
“We went out west of Fallujah and went off key indicators and identified some specific things that led us to believe this was the place,” Cusack explained. “Based on what we’d seen, we knew we had a small window of time to get this guy.”
The next morning, Cusack rode with L Company’s personnel security detachment to return to search the house.
They met enemy resistance on the way to the house. Two improvised explosive devices detonated near the convoy.
“The lead vehicle got hit twice,” said Cpl. Estafanos Getahun, a scout-sniper with L Company PSD. “Getting there was more interesting than getting to the hit. It was beginning to look like a hard hit.”
Sgt. Jeff Bell, a platoon sergeant assigned to Headquarters Platoon, Company L, said he didn’t know the mission would make headlines when they made it to the house.
“Once I set foot in the front door, I was told what was actually going on in the house,” said the 27-year-old from Littleton, Colo.
Marines didn’t go in guns blazing. They talked the owner into allowing them into the house. Once inside, they began to match key descriptions of the house. It became clear; they were on target.
Marines gathered the family into one room while Marines searched the remaining rooms for evidence of Carroll’s detention. Every corner, every drawer, every shelf was searched.
“We methodically went room-to-room and searched the cupboards, pulled everything out,” Bell said. “If it was there, it got searched.”
Inside, they found a number of items that confirmed the identities of the insurgents, including incriminating documents and $3,600 in American paper currency.
Marines had what they needed to take the three into custody. Still, they lingered. The three weren’t exhibiting any outward signs of nervousness, and Marines took a few minutes while several from their team were fixing the IED-damaged humvee.
“We were still fixing a flat tire from the IED,” Cusack said. “As soon as it was fixed we put everything together.”
“While the Marines were fixing it, people thought it was a normal thing they were doing,” said Getahun, 27, from Las Vegas. “It gave them some peace, because they thought it was a different thing. Then they arrested them.”
“As we were leaving, we said, ‘You’re coming with us,’” Cusack said.
Marines didn’t realize until a couple weeks later the significance of their seizure of the kidnappers. They took in those responsible for targeting an American, for kidnapping and also found out that they were key members of a cell responsible for local attacks against Marines.
“A couple weeks later on we heard they were connected to some cells that were setting IEDs and firing rockets in the area,” Getahun said. “It did help us secure the route to Habbaniyah.”
“It’s a pretty good feeling knowing you got the guys who did such a horrible thing,” Bell said. “Hopefully it keeps that particular cell from repeating the kidnappings. Hopefully we can kind of quell that with this huge cell getting taken down and the other guys take note of that, knowing there’s nowhere to hide.”
Cusack said although the Darkhorse battalion arrested numerous insurgents during their seven months in Iraq, this raid held special meaning.
“We detained lots of bad guys over here, lots of kidnappers,” he said. “But this one connects with an American, someone people back home knew about. That makes it satisfying to have that direct connection to something people can relate to.”
Marines from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment have since redeployed to the United States, finishing a seven-month deployment to Iraq.