Reporters on the Job

Fact or Fiction? On a tour with the US military of two predominantly Sunni enclaves around Baghdad's troubled Haifa Street area (see story), correspondent Sam Dagher thought a lot about how much fact and fiction often blend to stir up passions and hatred.

In Saada, on the west bank of the Tigris River, a guard at the Karkh high school, where Saddam Hussein was once a student, greeted Sam and took him aside. "He said he has no grudge against Shiites and has always protected Shiite students," Sam says. But the guard told Sam that things have gotten out of hand, with bands of Shiites coming at night to torch homes abandoned by Sunnis. "But when I asked other residents, they said they know nothing about it. They're either afraid or no such incident took place."

In the Sheikh Ali neighborhood just across Haifa Street, residents said that the house of a Sunni woman was raided by black-clad Mahdi Army militiamen. "I asked them if I could talk to the woman," says Sam. "She told me that she heard some noise while she was asleep. She opened the door but whoever was there fled.

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"She told me, 'I did not see anyone. No men dressed in black or carrying sabers. They might have been thieves.' "

But a man nearby disagreed. "No, militiamen!" he shouted.

Please, Don't Take a Photo: The Welsh Guards in Bosnia have had their share of reporters at the Metal Factory Base (see story). Beside the few who live in the area, says correspondent Beth Kampschror, a phalanx of royal-family beat reporters descended on the base when Prince Charles visited two weeks ago.

Beth says that while she was there, one of the female Guards had clearly had enough. "She was doing inventory on computers while the guys loaded a truck. I was taking pictures and she said, rolling her eyes, 'Don't take any of me – I was in Hello! magazine [a publication about celebrities and royals] last week and that was enough.' So I aimed the camera at what the major calls his 'hairy Welshmen.' They didn't seem to mind."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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