Reporters on the Job

Visiting Najaf: Staff writer Dan Murphy spent two days in Najaf, Iraq, for Tuesday's story on the history of the Sadr family (page 1). He and his interpreter moved reasonably freely among the Mahdi army militia who control the city. He felt comfortable enough to attend Moqtada al-Sadr's big weekly sermon, the Friday prayers at his mosque in Kufa.

To get in, Dan says he had to walk through a gantlet of militiamen toting rifles and rocket propelled grenades and flash a letter from Sadr's sharia court authorizing them to be in the area.

In front of the mosque, militiamen sat on stolen trucks - originally supplied by the US to the Iraqi police. Inside, all of the spots in the shaded part of the complex were taken, and Dan and his interpreter sat withering in the courtyard with about 4,000 other Iraqis.

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"While it's supposed to be a religious occasion, much of the flavor of the event was like a rock concert," says Dan. "Moqtada's supporters were straining to get a view of him when he walked in - pumping their fists in the air, chanting his name, and otherwise having a good time. People were generally good natured and friendly to me, even after joining in chants demanding for the immediate ouster of the 'infidel Americans.' "

Coaxing Out the Story: When staff writer Scott Peterson got word there'd been an attack in Fallujah Monday (page 7), he walked over to what serves as the hospital at the US Marine headquarters at Camp Fallujah. "There were three or four guys, waiting for their wounded buddies, and telling war stories," says Scott. But as soon as he and a colleague arrived, they clammed up. He asked why. "We've been misquoted in the press before," they said. Scott spoke to their officers, who gave him the details of the attack, then returned to the soldiers. "We chatted for a while, then they opened up."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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