Reporter's Diary: Life on Assignment in Afghanistan

Richard Lloyd Parry
The Independent (London)
November 27, 2001

Perhaps at some time or other, driving through the streets of Jalalabad, I did see Harry Burton, Julio Fuentes, Aziz Haidari, and Maria Grazia Cutuli. But I never put a name to a face, and the only impressions I have of them belong to other people.

Maria, a striking Italian, who had been reporting on Afghanistan for years; Aziz, the gentlemanly Afghan photographer working for Reuters; Julio, the bold Spanish reporter; and Harry, an Australian who was already concerned about his safety and wasn't sure he wanted to be here anyway.

It was sickening to drive back into Jalalabad's Wide Mountains Hotel a week ago on Monday afternoon to be told that just two hours before, the four had been killed. They were shot by a gunman on the road from Jalalabad to Kabul. On Wednesday the Red Cross drove their bodies into Pakistan for repatriation. Maria was buried at home in Sicily on Sunday.

Life at the White Mountains Hotel has not been the same since.

Week of Drama

An unwritten rule decrees that reporters shall not write about the life of reporters. But perhaps this is the week to make an exception.

Compared with Kandahar, where the Taliban leadership is holed up under U.S. bombardment, or Kunduz, hosting thousands of Taliban and al-Qaida holy warriors, Jalalabad is a peaceful backwater. But still, for sheer variety of dramatic stories, I have never known a week like this past one.

A week ago Sunday, I was standing in a Taliban base amid unexploded cluster bombs and the wrecks of 200 tanks and artillery pieces.

Next morning, I visited an opium farm. In the afternoon, four of my colleagues were murdered.

Wednesday was a slow day—reading arms manuals in a terrorist hideout, and interviews with the rival mujahidin commanders maneuvering for control of Jalalabad.

Continued on Next Page >>


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