Reporters on the Job

Hospitality first: Scott Baldauf and photographer Bob Harbison, during a visit to a mosque in Mardan, Pakistan for today's story, ran into unexpected hospitality from those who have pledged to fight the US. They were invited to a feast at the mosque guest house in honor of a young man who died fighting in Kashmir.

"We were sitting on the floor, eating with our hands a fabulous meal of rice, chicken, and mutton," says Scott. "And the oddest thing - besides that we were at a feast celebrating the death of this young man - was that the other young men in the room, fellow jihad fighters, had AK-47s laid out beside them as they ate. So we were probably at one of the safest places in all the country."

When Bob asked to take pictures, they said "absolutely not."

armchair target: The Monitor's Nicole Gaouette noted a marked contrast between the willingness and openness of sources, and their extreme level of caution in meeting. One man, who is wanted by the Israeli army, was extremely late for an interview. "I thought he was going to stand us up," says Nicole. "The only person I saw was a young, scruffy guy in loose jeans and big running shoes, who kept peeking in the door every few minutes." Finally, her interviewee, a man who dresses "very crisply, with almost military neatness," arrived. "The penny didn't drop until the end of the interview, when he made a phone call and the minder showed up and they left together," Nicole says. After a second meeting, he asked for copies of all her notes. "I refused," says Nicole. "I apologized, explaining that it's just a newspaper rule.

"But I realized he was concerned about whether I had taken any notes on the layout of his house. He was worried that I'd pass along the coordinates of his favorite comfy chair." A well-founded concern, based on the precision of past Israeli "targeted killings," or assassinations, of Palestinians it considers militant terrorists.

lying low: In Yemen, the Monitor's Scott Peterson found it extraordinarily difficult to find anyone willing to talk, even those he had interviewed on previous visits.

"While I was making inquiries, more than 20 people were arrested as they arrived in the country, suspected of coming from military training camps in Afghanistan," says Scott.

Those well-known for their Afghan ties apparently had been told to keep a low profile, including the family of one of the alleged suicide hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Scott was told by an intermediary, "They are in hiding as if the ground beneath them had fallen away."

Let us hear from you.

Mail to: One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 via e-mail: world@csmonitor.com

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