Reporters on the Job

A Friend in Need.... Contributor Rachel Morarjee says that Monday morning in Kabul, Afghanistan, was "pretty hairy." At home, she could hear the sound of gunfire - from riots sparked by an accident involving a US military convoy - getting closer to her house. A building 300 yards away was set on fire.

"The action happened around 8 a.m., and by 11 a.m., friends called and told me not to go anywhere. By 11.30 a.m., they told me I had to get out of the house. A friend came by on a bicycle and I hopped on the back, with a burqa enveloping both me and my computer."

Rachel is now staying at another house. "It was nice," she says, "to know that my Afghan friends were watching my back."

Drive-by Shooting: Staff writer Dan Murphy first met Osama al-Jadaan, who was gunned down Sunday with his body-guard and driver in Baghdad's wealthy Mansour neighborhood, when word got round that the sheikh was telling everyone he could that he could help free Jill Carroll, who was held by insurgents for 82 days.

"He was a flamboyant and self- promoting sheikh who claimed to be driving Al Qaeda in Iraq out of troubled Anbar Province," Dan says. "On at least two occasions, he threatened Iraqi translators who made the mistake of referring to him as 'Mr.' rather than 'Sheikh.' "

The secular Jadaan, who favored shapeless brown suits and slip-on loafers, fled Iraq after one of Saddam Hussein's sons seized his meat-packing business, and returned after the US invasion. The Monitor wrote about him in its Feb. 06, 2006, edition.

"He described himself as the head of the Sunni Karabilah tribe, a small tribe centered around the town of the same name near the Syrian border, and said he was leading a confederation of tribes in a revolt against Al Qaeda in Iraq," says Dan. Though US commanders said members of the tribe have been helpful, some of his more grandiose claims - including clearing 75 percent of Anbar Province of Al Qaeda in Iraq - were never confirmed.

"But he was among a number of figures of influence in Anbar who had aligned themselves with the US, angry at the number of civilians killed by insurgents," says Dan. "He had courage and boundless energy. In conversation, he would wave his hands wildly while his eyes seemed to dart everywhere."

His frequent interviews with the press garnered him criticism from other Sunni Arab leaders, Dan notes. In late February, he said he knew who Ms. Carroll's kidnappers were, and gave them 48 hours to release her or be executed themselves. But Carroll was not released for another month.

"They are mice, they are little mice,'' he said of her captors, scrunching his fingers to show how small. "I am Sheikh Osama - I am a big man...."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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