Stories by Rod Nordland

  • The Web's Dark Secret

    Before The Internet Came Along, Pedophiles Were Lonely And Hunted Individuals. Authorities Had Child Pornography Under Control. Today Networks Of Child Abusers Are Proliferating Worldwide. A Newsweek Investigation.
  • Balkan Ghosts Never Die

    As word got out last week that Slobodan Milosevic might soon be arrested, his supporters declared they would build a "living wall" around his house. They said they would stop police from getting him. For a moment, Belgrade held its breath--and then let loose with a col-lective belly laugh. At best 50 "people's guards" showed up, most of them pensioners, the women with big hair, the men with old Lenin caps and shabby suits. Indicted war criminal Vlajko Stojiljkovic dropped by to praise "the greatest Serb of all times," and the demonstrators loudly cursed the press. Behind the high walls at 11 Uzicka Street, the only sign of life was the military guards assigned to the defeated president by his elected successor, Vojislav Kostunica. The protesters were too few even to encircle the walled compound, and when a cold rain set in at night they all went home. "The chance of Milosevic regaining power is nil," said a Western diplomat in Belgrade. "The only thing he can do now is negotiate a...
  • The Last Victims

    No one had more reason to remember the night of Dec. 21, 1988, than Steven Flannigan. Christmas was only four days away, so Steve, then 14, had slipped next door with a present for his 10-year-old sister, Joanne. It was a new bike, and he wanted to set it up for her. Steve was in the neighbor's garage when one of the jet engines and a chunk of wing from Pan Am Flight 103 slammed into his house on Sherwood Crescent in the Scottish village of Lockerbie. He ran out to see an orange fireball where his three-bedroom home had just been. Where Joanne and his parents, Katherine, 41, and Thomas, 44, had just been. Only parts of Joanne's body were ever recovered; nothing of Steve's parents was.There were plenty of other horrifying sights that night, sights that seared themselves into the collective memory of hundreds of families affected by the Lockerbie tragedy. Halfway up a wee hill, the fuselage had landed in the backyards of Rosebank Crescent. Bob Edgar ran out to see a baby boy's body...
  • 'I Haven't Shot Anyone'

    When Fuad Haidar took hostages inside a United Nations compound in Baghdad last month, he soon fell into a gun battle with Iraqi police. To casual observers, it looked at first like Haidar, a 38-year-old car mechanic, had signed his own death warrant. Iraq's security services, after all, have been known to torture or kill people who simply criticize the regime. But Haidar enjoyed a different fate. He was given star billing at a press conference and allowed to air his grievances on national TV--despite the facts that two officials of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) were killed in the incident and seven other people were wounded.Many diplomats and aid workers in Iraq are convinced that Baghdad deliberately staged the June 28 attack. They note several suspicious circumstances. Haidar was pinned down on the ground floor during his battle with police, for instance, yet the Iraqi government claims he killed two hostages who weren't near him. "The victims were upstairs,"...
  • Saddam's Long Shadow

    The revolving restaurant on the bright blue communications tower is a good vantage point for observing Baghdad and some of its many contradictions. Destroyed in the gulf war, it was rebuilt in 1994 and renamed the Saddam Tower. "We made it 108 meters high, so it would be 8 meters higher than the Tower of London," says Uday al-Faie, editor in chief of the Iraqi News Agency. Why bother to top London's tower? "Because it was a British plane that destroyed it," he says. These days, the restaurant revolves fitfully, if at all.Down below, the once mighty Tigris River has been shrunk by two years of drought--one of the few problems official Iraq doesn't blame on United Nations sanctions. As the restaurant revolves eastward, a huge compound of nearly finished buildings comes into view. The compound is so big, and the sputtering tower so slow, that 20 minutes pass before all of it is visible. The guide assigned by the Ministry of Information nervously professes to have no idea what the...
  • 'As Good As Anybody Else'

    The returning heroes slowly climbed the Tuscan hill town's cobbled streets. "Ben tornato!" the villagers of Sommacolonia called out to the elderly black Americans: "Welcome back!" The honored visitors were veterans and relatives of the U.S. Army's 92d Infantry Division, known as the Buffalo Soldiers. During World War II their top officers, all white men, slandered them as cowards. But the villagers have never forgotten the Buffalo Soldiers' courage and sacrifice. The segregated unit fought one of Italy's nastiest little battles of 1944 in a doomed attempt to stop the Nazis from retaking Sommacolonia.Eight surviving veterans came back last weekend to help open the Fortress of Peace, a park dedicated to the fallen heroes of the 92d, in particular Lt. John Fox. An act of Congress finally awarded him the Medal of Honor in 1997, more than half a century after he died in action. On Dec. 26, 1944, two crack Austrian companies attacked Sommacolonia. Fox, posted on the hill as a forward...
  • 'Hold Your Fire!'

    It started with Serbs spitting at the Americans. Soldiers of the 82d Airborne Division were emerging from a building in Mitrovica, Kosovo, that they'd searched for weapons. A crowd gathered. "Come on, shoot me, you cowards," one Serbian man shouted, baring his chest. "You can't bomb us now," another sneered. Captain Mark Pratt ordered the 132 men of his Bravo Company to stand shoulder to shoulder. "Hold your line, Joes," he and his noncoms shouted, as they moved behind their line. That was easy enough. "And hold your fire!" That was harder. They upgraded their status to red, in Army parlance; rounds were chambered."All we could do is stand there and take it," said Specialist David Arsen, 24, of Tacoma, Washington--even when a snowball barrage gave way to trash, rocks and uprooted paving stones. "I grabbed a few guys by the shoulder; I could see they were getting pretty upset," Captain Pratt said. " 'Hold on a little bit longer, we'll get out of this OK. That's what they want you to...
  • 'Hold Your Line! Hold Your Fire!'

    It started with Serbs spitting at the Americans. Soldiers of the 82d Airborne Division were emerging from a building in Mitrovica, Kosovo, that they'd just searched for weapons. A crowd gathered. "Come on, shoot me, you cowards," one Serbian man shouted, baring his chest. "You can't bomb us now," another sneered. Capt. Mark Pratt ordered the 132 men of his Bravo Company to stand shoulder to shoulder. "Hold your line, Joes," he and his noncoms shouted. That was easy enough. "And hold your fire!" That was harder."All we could do is stand there and take it," said Specialist David Arsen, 24, of Tacoma, Wash.--even when a snowball barrage gave way to trash, rocks and paving stones. A brick hit machine-gunner Michael Shane Price, 29, in the face and knocked him, dazed, out of his turret. He was one of two men treated by medics; many others had cuts and bruises."It could have gone either way," said Pratt. And that's what made Mitrovica so frightening. A year after the start of the war in...
  • 'We'll Never Decommission'

    "The war is over," said the IRA man, sipping red wine at the Felons Association and Social Club in West Belfast. At a pub in the city center, a sensibly dressed professional woman who used to be an IRA member said the same thing. An IRA man who spent 18 years in jail, another who did 10, an IRA man in Portadown strikingly dressed all in black--they all agreed that the IRA was out of the war business. Nobody's gathering in war councils these days, says the red-wine man: "There's wee meetings and things like that--on local issues." So why not begin turning in your weapons and explosives? Ah, well, that's a different story. Says the man who was jailed for 10 years: "The issue of the IRA's weapons is an internal matter."It certainly looked that way last week, despite a whirlwind of efforts to make the IRA bend. After the International Commission on Decommissioning determined that the IRA had made zero progress on disarmament, all the big political players went on the offensive to try to...
  • A Sense Of Trust Betrayed

    Even in death, Merite Shabiu was a beautiful child. A U.S. Army officer gave a photo of the 11-year-old's battered corpse to her father, Hamdi, 41, an ethnic Albanian in the crumbling Kosovo town of Vitina. The Americans said they had jailed a suspect in the girl's murder: one of the U.S. Army peacekeepers who patrol the town. "She was like every child here," Shabiu recalls. "Saying 'NATO! NATO!' when she saw them, throwing them flowers..."U.S. officials clamped a tight lid on the incident. They said only that U.S. Army S/Sgt. Frank Ronghi of Niles, Ohio, was charged with premeditated murder and indecencies to a minor. The Army has moved him to Germany pending a pretrial inquiry to decide if he will face a court-martial. Ronghi himself has made no public comment, but his friends and family say there must be some mistake. Their Frank was a gentle, decent guy, not a killer.The peacekeepers are sweating. No one wants a repeat of the wildfire protests that engulfed Okinawa after three U...
  • Coldblooded Justice

    Arkan used to brag that he would never go to the U.N. tribunal at The Hague. Indicted as a war criminal in 1997, he'd recently taken precautions, changing homes every few nights in the posh Belgrade neighborhood he shared with other Serb luminaries and traveling with bodyguards in an armored jeep. But he wasn't running from the tribunal; no, the enemies he most feared were local. And, as Arkan and his entourage finished dinner at the Rotisserie French restaurant inside Belgrade's Hotel Intercontinental around 5 p.m. last Saturday, they apparently caught up with him. An unknown number of gunmen sprayed the place with Heckler & Koch submachine guns, the Belgrade underworld's weapon of choice. Arkan caught a slug in the eye--among three head wounds--and was DOA at the city's Emergency Hospital, as were two of his own heavies.The list of people who wanted Arkan dead is long. A career criminal--he got his start as a hit man for the Yugoslav communists--Arkan ruthlessly built a...
  • Where Is The Next Chernobyl?

    Visitors to Sosnovy-Bor, a distant suburb of St. Petersburg, can't say they aren't warned. The town hall boasts a digital Geiger counter, displaying local radiation levels in large red letters. That's because Sosnovy-Bor's only industry is the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant (LNPP), with its four massive reactors. When NEWSWEEK visited the plant early this year, it looked like an abandoned construction site. Rusting cranes loomed like mutant insects over piles of building materials, seemingly abandoned. They are supposed to be used to revamp the plant's safety systems, an overhaul originally scheduled for completion by the end of the year. But that has been postponed until 2001. "If the ruble crisis goes on," says spokesman Karl Rendel, "it seems pretty clear it won't be done even by then." The LNPP is a Chernobyl-type power station--only much more dangerous.If Chernobyl had happened here, many of the 4 million people of St. Petersburg would have been hit with a massive dose of...
  • War:E-Zone Combat

    If war is the continuation of politics by other means, in von Clausewitz's classic phrase, then the Internet is increasingly becoming the continuation of war by other means. NATO's Kosovo campaign ended with Serbia's capitulation last June, but Serb-Kovosar animosities live on in cyberspace. Members of every ethnic group in the Balkans can find a welter of Web sites and newsgroups keeping their favorite conflicts alive. Programs called list servers pump out propaganda broadsides, recycle news dispatches and transmit full texts of official news conferences. Chat rooms offer forums for people who seem to like nothing better than to type invective at one another. And while the Balkan conflict seems to inspire the worst of the e-combat, wars big and small elsewhere in the world are also being fought via the Internet. In this sort of combat, at least, no one ends up dead.Cyberwar can be deadly serious, though. During the war in Kosovo, hackers and spammers for the first time got involved...
  • Learning The Killing Game

    It was a feel-good scene in post-war Kosovo. British NATO troops hosted a barbecue to celebrate fixing up the Our Happiness Kindergarten in Pristina. Ethnic Albanian children aged 4 to 7 joined hands and sang, in English, "I'm a free, free child in this free, free world." The new ethnic Albanian headmistress, Afudita Mulla, looked on approvingly. "We must teach children not to hate anyone," she said. So when classes opened last week, for the first time in a decade there were no longer separate entrances and walls down the middle of the halls to keep Albanians and Serbs apart. "The doors," said Mulla, "are open for everybody."Yet not a single Serb came through those doors to register a child, even though the shabby apartment blocks that surround Our Happiness were full of Serbs and their children before the summer. "Some went on their own, and some we forced out," bragged a 7-year-old Albanian girl. Then 9-year-old Laurant, a serious-faced redhead, pulled a gunmetal-gray automatic...
  • The Children Who Love To Hate

    It was a feel-good scene in post-war Kosovo. British NATO troops had just finished fixing up the Our Happiness Kindergarten in Pristina. Soldiers of the 7th Signals Regiment put on a barbecue. Ethnic Albanian children ages 4 to 7 joined hands and sang, in English, "I'm a free, free child in this free, free world." The headmistress, Afudita Mulla, looked on approvingly. An ethnic Albanian fired from her job at the school a decade ago as Kosovo began its spiral into ethnic strife, Mulla is clear about her goals: "We must teach children not to hate anyone." So when classes open this week, there will no longer be separate playgrounds or separate entrances for Albanians and Serbs. "The doors," said Mulla, "are open for everybody."And yet not a single Serb has come through those doors to register a child. Partly that's because there are precious few Serbs left anywhere in Kosovo. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees puts the total number of Serbs still in Kosovo at 50,000,...
  • ’Daddy, They’Re Killing Us’

    When the blast of the exploding hand grenade stopped echoing inside her head, Vjollca Berisha's first sensation was of a slimy liquid seeping around her as she lay on the floor of the little pizzeria. "I thought they were dousing gasoline on us," she recalled later, "but it was everyone's blood." She took stock of her three children. No sign of Dafina, the 16-year-old girl. She saw Drilon, 13, lift his head, "so I knew he was OK. I said, 'Mosie, are you still alive?' "Her 8-year-old boy, Gramos, said yes. With about 50 other women and children, most of them members of the extended Berisha family, they had vainly tried to escape marauding Serb gunmen last March by hiding under the tables of the Kalabria Restaurant, at a shopping center in Suva Reka, a small town in southern Kosovo. Now the Serbs were closing in for the kill, forming a semicircle just outside the restaurant's shattered glass doors and window, their AK-47s pointed low. Watching from a nearby building, a neighbor heard...
  • Rape And Aftermath

    Serb police found only women and children when they took over the western Kosovo village of Dragacin in late April. All the men had fled or joined the Kosovo Liberation Army. So the Serbs crammed the 150 women, plus their children, into three houses. At night the captors would come and shine flashlights in the women's faces, discussing who was pretty and selecting a few to take away. Hours later the chosen women would return. Nothing had happened, they said; the Serbs had only wanted them to serve coffee. Mothers even got chocolate for their kids.So "Anita" (not her real name) wasn't too worried the night she was picked--at first. The Serbs didn't want coffee. One policeman raped her while four others sexually abused her. After they finished, they handed her some candy. She threw it away. Back at the house she told the other women what had happened. "I said, 'Why didn't you tell us?' But they all said they just made coffee."She was glad to learn she wasn't pregnant. The unmarried 20...
  • In Kosovo, Fear And Hunger

    The men never venture out of their shuttered homes, for fear of being summarily executed. Women know they could be raped. So ethnic Albanians who have not been routed from their homes in Kosovo send children out to the few food stores that are still open or to stand in bread lines. There is little on sale in the shops. And many merchants will sell only to Serbs. "If you want to buy bread, ask Clinton," refugees say they were told. One said he had bought a loaf of bread and as soon as he left the store, a policeman grabbed it and said, "Go to Albania if you want bread."Albanians trapped inside Kosovo now face an insidious new enemy: hunger. "We figure now there are some 820,000 internally displaced people inside Kosovo, many, if not most, corralled into pockets by Serb security forces, largely cut off from any sources of food or supplies," said the NATO military chief, Wesley Clark. Refugees who crossed into Albania last week gave now familiar, but still terrifying, accounts of...
  • Vengeance Of A Victim Race

    There's a common Serb expression that could be the national motto--"Well, at least one of my neighbor's cows is dead.'' It's heard often these days, in this context: NATO may be bombing us and methodically destroying our bridges, our Army, our fuel supplies, our ministries. Our economy is ruined. We're forever shunned by Europe. Our only friends are the Iraqis, the Chinese, the Greeks, the Russians. But at least we put it to the Albanians. Their cows are all dead.The Serbs didn't need to load Kosovars into boxcars to look bad. This is the nation that invented the term ''ethnic cleansing''--as a wartime boast in 1991 when they were kicking Croats out of Croatia. In Belgrade, the wedding of a war criminal was the social occasion of 1995; even Orthodox bishops attended. Now, as the bombs fall, all norms of civilized behavior seem to have disappeared. On TV Palma, a commercial network, station manager Miodrag Vukovic lets loose with a torrent of gutter invective about Bill Clinton's sex...
  • Death March

    The sun was up, but it had not yet crested the steep, mist-shrouded mountains. In the little valley that leads from the Buhoma Gate of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in southwestern Uganda, visitors were preparing for hikes that would put them face to face with rare mountain gorillas. American tour guide Mark Ross was up at 7 a.m., but his clients, four executives from Oregon's Intel Corp., were still in their comfortable tents at the pricey Abercrombie & Kent Gorilla Camp. None of them would get to see the animals. "There was a crack, and at first I thought it was a tree falling, but it was a rifle shot," Ross later recalled. "It must have been a signal shot. A hundred fifty soldiers poured over the ridge into the valley, and there was firing everywhere for the next four or five minutes. It was incredibly fast."Ross's first instinct was to protect his clients. He told them to stay put, then ran down a hill toward the park headquarters, the attackers' first target....
  • Focusing On The Fiat

    FROM THE FIRST HOURS AFTER THE CRASH THAT KILLED Princess Diana, Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul, investigators focused on the paparazzi. Nine photographers and a motorcyclist were charged with involuntary homicide and failure to render assistance at the scene of an accident. Now it appears they may be guilty of nothing more than being obnoxious. NEWSWEEK has learned that the investigating judge has told the attorneys for at least two of the paparazzi that once the inquiry is completed he expects the charges to be dropped. While a preliminary check of phone records indicated that none of the paparazzi had called the Paris emergency number for help after the accident, it turns out that one photog did dial an alternate number. Then he shouted to the others that he'd called, so they wouldn't clog police lines. As for the involuntary-homicide charges, certainly the photographers were chasing the Mercedes, but none of the witnesses saw them come close enough to interfere directly with...
  • The Diana File

    THE SIX-INCH-THICK DOSSIER compiled by the Prefecture of Police in Paris is labeled simply ""Accident Mortel de la Circulation Date 31/8/97 Heure 00h30.'' The file name is dry, but its contents are provocative. Nestled among sheets of police reports, carefully sketched diagrams and statements from witnesses are photographs of Diana in the wreckage of the Mercedes. Taken by a paparazzo, Diana, eyes open, appears conscious and unhurt; there is no sign of blood. Appearances aside, Diana was hurt--badly hurt. And less than four hours later, she was dead.Six weeks after the crash the world still wonders what, exactly, happened that night. With painstaking detail, the French police have put together a file that answers many of those questions. The dossier and interviews with those on the scene of the accident reveal surprising new details about the crash that on Aug. 31 killed Diana, her lover Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul, and seriously injured bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones.The file...
  • Serbs: 'We Will Kill You'

    IT LOOKED MORE LIKE THE WEST Bank than Bosnia near the northern border town of Brcko last week. Rock-throwing youths hid their faces under black balaclavas and charged U.S. troops in gas masks. Older Serbs used bottles and clubs to smash windshields of Humvees pulling out of the U.S. Army's Camp McGovern. Foreign journalists were beaten in the streets, and U.N. relief workers scrambled into hiding. U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopters fired tear gas into crowds of angry Serbs wielding axes, clubs and iron bars. Demonstrators taunted the GIs in broken English: ""You will see who are the Serbs. We will kill you all.'' ...
  • North Versus South

    THE FISHERMEN OF VLORE ARE FISHing with hand grenades these days. There's precious little food in the Albanian port, now that anti-government protests have turned into something like a civil war between north and south. Roving gangs of gunmen have looted most stores in the southern town. But the outdoor market is full of fish. After chasing out government forces on Feb. 28, rioters seized a huge weapons cache in the military barracks. Ordinary citizens, as well as ordinary criminals, are now heavily armed. As for the fishermen, blam! Toss one grenade into the sea, and the explosion brings a lot of dead fish to the surface. ...
  • All In The Family

    FATHER WAS HAVING A BAD week. After losing local government elections in major Serbian cities, Slobodan Milosevic overturned them, pushing thou- sands of demonstrators into the streets. Mother wasn't much help. Mira Markovic, Slobo's wife and an unrepentant communist, saw her own political party trounced. Meanwhile, her much read diary, published in the magazine Duga, hinted broadly that her husband had been having an affair with a Serbian TV anchorwoman two years ago. "I heard that some people didn't know who I meant the first time I wrote about this," she said, and so she repeated the story. And then there are the two kids: Marko, the winless race-car driver, and Marija, the pistol-packing disco queen who tells fortunes by reading coffee grinds. "This is really the dictatorship of the Addams Family," says Mirjana Bobic-Mojsilovic, a prominent journalist. "Except they're not as funny. For us Serbs, it's always black humor." ...
  • The Plague That Wasn't

    CYRIL LAHANA DIDN'T GET TO KISS HIS dying wife, Marilyn, goodbye last week. He squeezed her toe instead, to let her know he was there. She lay in a Johannesburg hospital, bleeding to death from the deadly African virus Ebola, infected by a doctor who'd been medevaced from the jungles of Gabon into the clinic where she worked as a nurse. The doctor turned out to be one of the 20 percent of Ebola victims who survive; Marilyn was not. "A lot of our relations said they were too frightened of us to even come to the funeral," Cyril said. "I don't believe it. It's not an airborne disease; you don't get it by shaking hands." By the time the braver mourners gathered for Marilyn's memorial service last Friday, the virus's 21-day incubation period had elapsed. No one else had caught it. ...
  • The Islamic Nightmare

    THE MULLAHS WHO TOOK OVER last week in Kabul, the conquered capital of Afghanistan, made Iran's ayatollahs look like Western playboys. The fundamentalist Taliban movement issued decree after decree through its six-member ruling council, the Shura. Television stations and movie theaters were shut down, and music was banned from the radio. Kabul's 1 million people were ordered to pray five times a day--including two visits to the local mosque, where attendance would be taken. Criminals were threatened with beatings, mutilation and death. Men were given 45 days to grow proper Muslim beards--which are left untrimmed--and were told to shed their Western clothes in favor of traditional Afghan dress. ...
  • Starting Over?

    EMPTY BUSES MAY PROVE TO BE the symbol of what didn't happen in the Bosnian elections last week. The Western allies had hired thousands of them to take refugees back to their home villages to vote on Saturday. The West's logic: for Bosnia to become a multiethnic state again, with Muslims, Croats and Serbs living side by side, the voters would have to choose an ethnic mix of representatives, too. That meant taking people back to places where they'd been ""ethnically cleansed''--that is, slaughtered and forced out--during 3i years of war. So the buses were scheduled, some even for every half hour, to shuttle voters all over the desecrated Bosnian map. The passengers were pitifully few. Election organizers had predicted that as many as 120,000 people would make such pilgrimages. Only 20,000 actually did, either from fear or from lack of faith that the elections could really matter in their lives. By midday in the chunk of Bosnia guarded by Americans, a mere 17 Muslims had dared venture...
  • One Star, Two Nets

    CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR HAD WHAT she calls ""a weird feeling of deja vu'' as she flew into Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, from her base in Paris last week. Amanpour, dispatched by CNN to report on the terror bombing at an American housing complex, had covered the beginning of the gulf war from Dhahran six years ago. ""And here I am coming back again,'' she says in her distinctive British accent. ""It's almost like all the same people all over again.'' CNN is even encamped in the same hotel it used during the gulf war. But back then Amanpour was an unknown on her first foreign reporting assignment. Perhaps her greatest distinction was her status as one of ""the Three Holy News Babes,'' as she and her all-female crew were jokingly known. This time around, it's different. The phones in the CNN suite are ringing off the hook. Reporters are calling -- and they want to interview Amanpour.Between visits to Dhahran, Amanpour, 38, has compiled a collection of passport stamps and broadcasting awards that...
  • A Monster On The Loose

    ONLY 13 MILES OF TWISTING mountain road separate their headquarters. At the top of the mountain, holed up in a warren of bunkers, is Gen. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military commander, a tough-talking bantam of a man who is the most wanted of Bosnia's alleged war criminals. At the bottom of the mountain is Camp Lisa, home to the equally tough-talking Col. John Batiste, a brigade commander in the U.S. First Armored Division. The two men probably hope they never meet on a dark mountain road. Mladic is a fugitive from international justice, having been indicted twice by the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Batiste, as a leader of NATO's Implementation Force (IFOR) under the Dayton peace agreement, is supposed to arrest men like him on sight. So does Batiste expect to run into Mladic or any of the 45 other indicted Bosnian Serbs? "Only if they're stupid," he says. ...