Reporters on the Job

Dodging Mortars: For two days, staff writer Scott Peterson went out on patrols with US and Afghan troops in Paktia Province. He watched as they searched the fortress-shaped mud houses of Chawni for Taliban fighters. They found few weapons or fighting-aged men as they headed deeper into Taliban territory.

But Wednesday at dusk, the "enemy" announced its presence.

Scott, his colleagues from The New York Times, and the troops they were embedded with had just sent up a small camp in the Afghan countryside. It had been another quiet day. Scott had set up his satellite phone and computer alongside a US Army Humvee. "I'd just got the Internet working when a mortar whistled overhead.

"Is that incoming or outgoing? Then a second 82-mm shell landed 200 yards to the east of us, bursting into a thunderous spray of sparks," he says.

Clearly, incoming.

He and his colleagues hurriedly tossed their gear into the Humvee to move. "Cameras, computers, rucksacks, everything. But it was dark, so I didn't see my Ethernet cable as I slammed the door on it," he laments. Normally, that might be a serious blow to his ability to send stories to Boston.

But Scott, a former Eagle Scout, had brought a backup cable.

And the Taliban?

No third shell arrived. But "it was clear they were sending a message that they knew we were here. They had perfectly bracketed our position with those two mortar rounds. "

– David Clark Scott
World editor

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