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Reporters on the Job

Beans for Rebels: Correspondent Tristan McConnell's assistant in Ituri, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was a motorbike-riding born-again pastor, Marrion, who knows everyone. Tristan was hoping to find the leader of the MRC, a loose coalition of ethnic militias responsible for much of the recent fighting and displacement in Ituri.

"Before we left, we had to pick up a militia commander based in Bunia who would ensure our safe passage. We also were told to pack some bags of beans for the fighters." Tristan says he weighed the ethics of taking food to rebel militias against their reaction if he didn't. "We took the beans," he says.

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The four-wheel-drive bumped its way up the rocky track. Finally, silhouetted figures appeared. "MRC," said the pastor.

"The figures became teenagers, dressed in ragged sportswear, clutching AK-47s or rocket launchers," Tristan says. "Their commander, Mathieu, was a disconcertingly reasonable man. At the end, he thanked me for coming, saying, 'Most people would be too afraid to come to see us here in our home.'"

Given the allegations against him and his fighters, says Tristan, "that fear is justified."

It's Child's Play Only: Correspondent Nick Blanford says that the Italian commandos who joined peacekeeping forces in Lebanon this past weekend were planning to land on a long sandy beach running south of Tyre. "Although it was logistically the most convenient way to land, it would also add an element of military dash and drama," says Nick. But the surf was high during the morning, so an inflatable dinghy carrying several marines checked to see if a beach landing was suitable.

"There was so much scrutiny of the sea that some of the photographers and cameramen hoping to record the event grew impatient and disappeared to a nearby cafe to escape the intense sun," Nick says. "Eventually, the Italian admiral in charge ruled out a beach landing and the soldiers were helicoptered ashore."

But, Nick says, the local children didn't seem to mind the large waves. "They continued playing in the surf throughout the day."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor


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