Reporters on the Job

A Message in Iraq: Reporters covering Iraq are used to hearing gun and mortar fire. Nonetheless, awakening to an explosion is an unpleasant way to start your day, to say the least. Tuesday, contributor Orly Halpern was asleep when an "enormous boom rocked my hotel at about 8 a.m. It was as if someone was kicking and shaking my bed. I thought the hotel next door had been hit. The whole building shook," she says.

She dressed and raced to the roof to see smoke coming from about 150 feet away. A car bomb - a blue Volkswagen - had exploded outside the police check- point on the street leading to the area that includes several small hotels and the Australian Embassy. "None of the police that I see every day were hurt. But a boy of maybe 10 or 12 was killed. I didn't really know him but he had a cigarette stand and used to hail a cab for our interpreter at the end of the day," says Orly. "His name was Ali."

The blast took out the windows of the hotel nearest to the car as well as electricity and phone service to the hotel where Orly was staying.

Standing on the roof with other guests, she says she was "relieved that it was a car bomb. If it had been a mortar, then it's possible that those firing might have had a spotter nearby with a mobile phone. He might have told them how to adjust their aim," she says.

Orly was told that in addition to the boy, four other Iraqis were injured by the bomb. "I don't know if they were targeting the Australian Embassy or the foreigners in the hotels here. Since the car was parked outside the checkpoint, the explosion didn't reach us. It felt more like a message - and not a very friendly one."

Orly later went out to report on Iraqi reaction to President Bush's Monday night speech (page 1).

David Clark Scott
World editor

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