March 31, 2006 08:00 AM

At the end of 82 days during which friends and family members stateside constantly feared for the fate of kidnapped freelance reporter Jill Carroll, being held captive in Iraq, the phone rang.

“Hi, Dad,” said the voice on the other end Thursday. “This is Jill. I’m released.”

“It was quite the wake up call, to say the least, Carroll’s father, Jim, told reporters outside his North Carolina home on Thursday. It’s been very, very difficult on the family and all of the friends, and obviously all the people around the world.”

Carroll, 28, has met with doctors for a medical examination as she prepares to come home. She ll leave Iraq as soon as possible, her editor at The Christian Science Monitor said Friday. First she must complete a briefing with U.S. authorities

Carroll is “emotionally fragile” but doing well after her release, said Richard Bergenheim, editor of the Boston-based newspaper.

“Yesterday was way too soon. I think they’re investigating whether she could leave today,” Bergenheim said, the Associated Press reports. “But her family wants to make that sure she’s strong enough, emotionally and otherwise, to take this step.”

On Thursday an unknown group handed her over to the Iraqi Islamic Party office in western Baghdad. She was later delivered to American officials and taken to the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Before being turned over to American authorities on Thursday, Carroll gave an interview to Baghdad Television. In it, she emphasized how well she was treated.

“I was kept in very good small safe place, a safe room, nice furniture; they gave me clothing plenty of food. I was allowed to take showers, go to the bathroom when I wanted. Very good – (they) never hit me, never even threatened to hit me,” Carroll said emphatically in the Baghdad Television interview.

Carroll also said she still doesn t know the identities of her abductors, where she was kept or why she was released.

Shortly before being set free, she said, “They just came to me and said, ‘Okay, we’re letting you go now.’ That’s all.”

“Thank God” was the response of President Bush, who was in Mexico when he heard the news. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed “great delight and great relief of the United States, the people of the United States and, I’m sure, the people of the world at the release today of Jill Carroll.”

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