Bomb Scare in Isfara

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Isfara, Tajikistan — Yesterday’s bomb scare in Isfara has derailed my efforts to meet with religious leaders and other local sources. With the city now crawling with officials from the Interior Ministry (MVD) and State Committee for National Security (SCNS), my contacts concluded that this was an inauspicious time to meet with Americans writing books on Islamic militancy. It’s frustrating, but yesterday’s news is an important reminder of how tenuous local conditions can be.

I had hoped to use today’s visit to examine these claims and develop a better factual foundation for my book. Now that my local contacts have gone offline, however, I must myself with the sort of superficial impressions that come from wandering through the bazaar. Between my dusty backpack, bright red beard, and nursery school Russian, the locals appear to be studying me far more intently than I am studying them.