Reporters on the Job
• The Militia Way of Advertising: The sheer number of billboards in the center of Basra paying tribute to Mahdi Army fighters killed in fighting the British was, for correspondent Sam Dagher, sufficient evidence of their influence in the city (see story). "You see the billboards in busy public squares, in front of government buildings, and next to police checkpoints," Sam says. One even replaced the Lion of Babylon, a landmark statute in the historic center, Ashar, that was blown up by militias a month ago because it was considered idolatrous, according to a strict interpretation of Islam.
Sam notes that some were simple and slick, showing images of the "martyrs" clutching machine guns next to an image of militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr. "Others went a bit overboard with too many images, like the one showing a masked fighter, Imam Hussein on a horse and brandishing a sword, images of Sadr and his father, Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr, a group of 'martyrs,' and images of tropical birds holding red roses fluttering overhead."
• Almost Like Crickets Chirping: The Lebanese residents living around the Nahr al-Bared camp have grown accustomed to the sound of explosions and shooting over the past three months, says correspondent Nicholas Blanford (see story). "Although the intensity of the fighting has died down, Fatah al-Islam militants still fire rockets into areas surrounding the camp, and local residents still have to avoid sporadic sniper fire," he notes. "Everyone I spoke to said they were glad that the battle was almost over and hoped that Fatah al-Islam would be crushed. The one exception was an old man. 'I have gotten used to falling asleep at night with the sound of shelling,' he lamented, adding that the silence when it was over would be unbearable," Nick says.
– Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor