Reporters on the Job

Interviewing the Taliban: To meet the Taliban commander in today's story (page 1), staff writer Scott Baldauf and Owais Tohid chose the meeting place in Pakistan carefully. "We didn't want to become hostages," says Scott. They met at the house of a mutual friend - neutral and unfamiliar ground for both sides. "He was nervous at first, and so were we; he had a gun, and we didn't. But once he realized we were not going to throw him in a truck and ship him to Guantanamo, he started to loosen up."

Taking the Temperature of a Crowd: Nicholas Blanford arrived outside the Sunni mosque in Baghdad yesterday to report on the explosion that had occurred Tuesday in a mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhood (this page). It was the first time since arriving in Iraq three weeks ago that he felt unsafe. "My interpreter and I got into a conversation with a man in the crowd that had gathered for the funeral of the three victims of the blast. As is usual, the crowd was listening intently to our conversation. Suddenly, however, one man behind us misunderstood the conversation and became quite agitated," says Nick. " 'What are you saying about Sistani?' he said, demanding to read my notes." Ayatollah Ali Sistani is a key leader of the country's Muslim Shiite community.

"It was a tense moment. The crowd edged closer, and others began demanding, 'What are they saying about Sistani?' Finally, someone interjected: 'Nobody said anything about Sistani', and the crowd relaxed.

"You've got a story to do, but you also have to be aware of when an angry crowd boils over into a violent crowd. We were moving toward simmer," says Nick. Afterward, a couple of Sunni guards with AK-47s attached themselves to Nick and his Iraqi interpreter. "They let us go anywhere on the mosque grounds and it was reassuring to have them with us," he admits.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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