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Reporters on the Job

• 'Too-Hard' Box? While reporting Tuesday's story about the nature of attacks in Iraq (page 1), staff writer Dan Murphy recalled a visit to a US military base in Talafar, a northern Iraqi city about an hour west of Mosul. A building with a few dozen sleeping US soldiers was almost wiped out by an predawn car-bomb last year. They were saved by two alert guards in towers who shot at the attacker, forcing him to blow up his vehicle just short of an open gate. During his visit, Dan asked if there'd been any progress in figuring out who was behind the attack. One annoyed US soldier recounted how an FBI investigator came to the scene a few days later, took evidence and then left. When the unit called the FBI in the US to find out what they'd discovered, they were told the investigator had been transferred to another case. "Right or wrong, the feeling of the soldier was that the investigators had simply put the attack into their 'too-hard box,' " says Dan.

Visiting the PKK: All you need to meet the leadership of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is patience and four-wheel drive, says reporter Nicholas Birch. "The camp lies at the end of a deeply rutted track an hour and a half north of the Iraqi Kurdish town of Raniya. Fortunately, traffic is not heavy: with a precipitous drop on one side and mine fields on the other, this is not the sort of place you'd want to squeeze two cars side by side," he says. At the top, the long wait began, interspersed with endless cups of tea. The PKK are used to journalists. "It's just that their walkie-talkies - connected to home-made battery chargers bound together in thick sticky tape - seem ill-adapted to high altitudes," says Nick. After several hours spent attempting to contact headquarters, the man in charge sent two young guerrillas up as messengers. "The rest of us settled in for a long evening. There was a chicken to kill, and soccer results to discuss," he says.

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David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot