Reporters on the Job

CHASING A SCOOP: Getting the first detailed account of the 1996 assassination attempt on Uday Hussein, eldest son of Saddam (page 1), took a bit of persistence. The Monitor's Peter Ford says, "It's far easier finding the man who shot Uday now than during Hussein's reign, when he was a fugitive skulking in the southern marshlands."

But it took some leg work.

Peter first heard that the British coalition chief in Nasiriya had just had dinner with "the man that tried to assassinate Uday," but didn't get a name. His Iraqi taxi driver volunteered that he knew the man. But it turned out they were chasing down the brother of someone else who wasn't directly involved in the attempt.

A quick internet search turned up one reference in a 1998 BBC report: the first name of the assassin was believed to be Salman. He got the last name (Sharif) via another source at British headquarters.

Then, after a two-hour interview, Hussein Hamza, leader of an Islamic political party in Nasiriya, agreed to arrange the first interview that Mr. Sharif has given to a foreign journalist. "At 7 a.m. Thursday, I was taken to an empty house in Shatra, where Sharif showed up 15 minutes later, still faithful to his clandestine habits. We sat on a carpet on the floor, and talked," says Peter.

In the course of the first hour of their interview, Sharif mentioned that he had a another interview scheduled with another journalist. But Peter wasn't in a hurry to share his scoop. So he dragged out the interview with Sharif, going an extra 90 minutes beyond the allotted time, in hopes that the journalist who was on his heels would think Sharif had stood him up.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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