Reporters on the Job

The Streets of Najaf: Scott Baldauf was driving around Najaf Thursday when a bus full of Shiite demonstrators pulled out in front of them. "They were poking their heads out, looking for other demonstrators, hoping to make a concerted run for the Shrine of Imam Ali (page 1). We pulled in behind them to see where they were headed," says Scott.

The miniconvoy hadn't traveled 50 feet when gunfire erupted ahead of them. "A police car suddenly sped past us and swerved in front of the bus, forcing it to stop. Our driver stopped and backed up and hid our car behind an 18-wheeler parked nearby. Or least we thought we did," says Scott.

About a dozen police cars arrived. Officers emerged with guns drawn, some firing in the air. The police boarded the bus, turned it around, and started driving away. "But some of the remaining officers then noticed our car," says Scott. He wasn't sure what was going to happen next.

The night before, the police had raided the Najaf Sea Hotel, where most of the foreign and Arab press corps is staying. Armed police men kicked down doors and fired weapons before escorting reporters to the police station. There, police chief Ghalib al-Jezaari criticized journalists for reporting on Sistani's peace initiative. Later, he apologized for the rough treatment.

"They ordered me out of the car and wanted to see my digital camera," Scott says. He told them that he hadn't taken any pictures of the demonstrators. But when he turned on the camera, "To my horror, a picture of a Mahdi Army fighter with a black mask appeared. It was leftover from a story I'd done a few days earlier in Baghdad," says Scott. "I quickly explained and, to my relief, he believed me and let us go."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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