DAY 683 - JANUARY 22, 2013

You stay calm and ask the masked men who they like more: Arsenal or Man. U.  Their growling faces are hidden from you, but you can still understand their anger from the way they squeeze their fists and tense their arms.. Meanwhile you are dialing Sheikh Yousef and when you know you have him on the line, you slip in the name of the checkpoint--Castello--so he knows where to find you. Unfortunately, the leader in the masks realizes what you are doing when he hears the volume of your voice go up. He yells for one of his men to open the passenger door and when he does, the man sees your mobile phone blinking from the call. The man grabs the phone and hurls it at the pavement and proceeds to smash it on the ground with the butt of his rifle. Then the leader drags you and Jalal out of the truck. You have a small flip video camera in your pocket and you press record blindly so at least you can identify the voices of your assailants. The man in the mask doesn't wait to kick you in the stomach with the bottom of his wet, snowy boot. You fall to the ground and he says, confidently, that they are the Badr Martyrs Brigade and that you now work for them. As you lift yourself off the ground slowly, you hear the clatter of assault rifles amidst the silence of the snow and then, raising your head, you see six bodies, all of the men, staining the white road with dark blood. You look around the empty street but see no one. Everyone is inside trying to stay warm and apparently so is Hamid the Weaponeer from Liwa Al Tawhid. You see him waving at you from the third-story window, a Dragunov sniper rifle propped against the ledge. Two more Al Tawhid soldiers are on the ground level near the building's lobby, their guns still at the ready.