NoW's Mahmood lands exclusive Taliban interview - Press Gazette

NoW's Mahmood lands exclusive Taliban interview

 News of the World investigations editor Mazher Mahmood discarded his now famous Arab headdress but wore traditional Muslim clothes to get into Afghanistan for a face-to-face interview with the Taliban.

Mahmood, who is a Muslim, and photographer Conrad Brown, who told the Taliban he was converting to Islam and was dressed like Mahmood, spent a night with fighters, after getting past border checkpoints under flour sacks in the back of a jeep.

On Thursday of last week they had gone to a mosque at Peshawar, Pakistan, sent by a contact who said they were sympathetic Muslim journalists.

They had expected, said Mahmood, to speak there to Taliban representatives but "the next thing we knew we were taken off in the back of a jeep on a long three-to-four-hour journey into Afghanistan".

They were told they could not return the same day because it was too risky.  "We felt safe because, once you are on side with these people, you are their guest, just as Osama bin Laden is, and in Islam the guest has a very high status," said Mahmood.

"The only problem came when they got us up at 4am to say prayers and Colin had no idea what to do. I said, ‘Just follow them – when they go down, you go down a second later’. We managed to bluff our way through."

Mahmood felt it was a worthwhile trip, resulting in three standalone pages in last weekend’s NoW.  "It was a Muslim perspective that we wouldn’t otherwise have got. The whole world press was here and we wanted to get in and get the story from the other side."