Written by Sebastian Younger and Originally Published in Byliner in February 1999
Around 10 P.M. on August 27, 1998, Malik Saad, the chief of police in Peshawar, Pakistan, received a telephone call saying that a foreigner was lying dead in a local hotel. It was only a week after the American missile strikes on Afghanistan, and the atmosphere in Peshawar was extremely tense- Westerners were staying off the streets, and there was said to be a bounty on the heads of Americans. Saad rushed over to Green's Hotel, suspecting the worst, and was ushered into Room 304.
A dark-skinned man in local Afghan dress was lying shirtless on the bed, frozen by rigor mortis. One arm was crooked against his face and a dead cigarette was wedged between his lips. The ember from the cigarette had fallen onto his leg and burned a hole through his loose trousers and into the flesh. His face was darkened with pooled blood, and a small trickle of blood had crept out of his right nostril. Found in the room were a stethoscope, a copy of the Koran, a carton of Marlboros, and four syringes. A black bag on the floor contained assorted camera gear and $5,000 in cash. Arrayed on the bed were
10 photographs, some of them showing the dead man accompanied by mujahideen rebels-all of them armed, all of them bearded. There was also a compass, a satellite phone, a fax from CBS News, two video cameras, and a British passport.
The man's name was Carlos Mavroleon, and he was already known to the authorities. Two days earlier, Mavroleon had been caught by the Pakistan secret police as he tried to slip into the terrorist training camps across the Afghan border. When the police accused him of being a spy, he told them that he was a freelance cameraman on assignment for CBS. They eventually released him. What Saad did not know-but would later learn-was that Mavroleon was from an extremely wealthy European family, that he had gone to Eton and Harvard, that he was engaged to a wealthy Iranian exile, that he had worked on Wall Street, and that he had fought in Afghanistan with the mujahideen.
And now here he was in a $15 hotel room, dead.
At first glance, it looked to Saad like an overdose. Peshawar had been a staging area for mujahideen Resistance forces during the Russian occupation and was now a major conduit for drugs and weapons flowing out of Afghanistan: there was nothing new about young Westerners turning up dead at cheap hotels. In addition, Saad found a bloody syringe on the floor, and a blackened Afghan coin with a hole in it lay on a nearby table-junkies who want to keep their teeth from staining will put a coin between their lips when they smoke. Saad immediately summoned a local doctor, who gave the body a quick examination and concluded that Mavroleon had probably died of a heroin overdose.
Saad then called Carol Le Duc, a genteel, middle-aged woman who acted as an unofficial British liaison in Peshawar. Le Duc arrived around 11 P.M. and confirmed that Mavroleon was a British national. She agreed that it looked like an overdose, but it bothered her that there were no tracks on Mavroleon's arms (a tiny needle mark was found later) and that there was no tourniquet. It crossed her mind that maybe someone had entered the room and forced him to inject himself. It crossed her mind that if Carlos was an addict, this would be the perfect way to disguise his murder.
"I listened to the police and their discussion, and they had a huge debate on whether or not they thought it could have been murder," Le Duc later said. "Green's Hotel is a center for all sorts of dealers in drugs, weapons, seedy-looking characters. It has a reputation of being a place of interesting characters. Also a source of potentially ruthless people."'
Even if Mavroleon wasn't murdered, he'd been playing a very dangerous game. After dark on August 20, the United States had fired several dozen cruise missiles-launched from battleships in the Arabian Sea-at a complex of military camps in the Afghan mountains. The camps, located in a remote area near a town called Khost, had originally been a mujahideen base during the Soviet occupation, which lasted from 1979 to 1989. Later they became training centers for fighters who went off to smaller conflicts, such as those in Bosnia and Kashmir.
In 1996 the camps were taken over by a wealthy Saudi businessman named Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden used the camps to train terrorists in what he considered a global jihad against American imperialism, and in early August members of his network allegedly detonated two truck bombs in front of the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Hundreds were killed, and within days the U.S. State Department declared that it had almost irrefutable evidence of bin Laden's involvement.
Bin Laden was beyond the reach of international law, however, because he was under the jurisdiction of the Taliban, the ultra-fundamentalist coalition that controls at least 90 percent of Afghanistan. Instead, the U.S. government decided on missile strikes, but bin Laden was well away from the camps during the attack. In the wake of the bombing, two Western relief workers were gunned down-one of them fatally-by Taliban supporters in Kabul, and in Peshawar the price on American heads immediately rose to $16,000, a reward supposedly offered by bin Laden himself.
It was into this volatile mix that Carlos strode. What CBS was desperate for-what every network in the world was desperate for-was footage of the destroyed camps. There were a number of problems, though. First of all, the Taliban weren't letting foreigners into Afghanistan, which meant that journalists had to sneak in through the mountains from Pakistan. The Pakistan government wasn't allowing foreigners near the border-part of a long-standing policy of keeping them out of what is known as the tribal territories-so journalists had to disguise themselves just to get close. But even if they managed to get that far, there was always the chance that they would be shot on sight. In fact, an Afghan journalist named Abdullah was nearly killed after he was found, carrying a satellite phone, in the vicinity of the camps. He was saved only by the last-minute intervention of a military commander who happened to know him.
Because he was dark-skinned and spoke Pashto, Carlos was one of the few journalists in the world who even had a chance of getting into the camps. Born in 1958 to a Greek shipping heir and his beautiful Mexican wife, Carlos grew up in a world of extraordinary English privilege. On the eve of Carlos's third birthday, his mother, Gioconda, had walked out on her husband, Bluey, and ever since the two sides of the family have remained bitterly separated. Bluey, a hopeless Anglophile, insisted that Carlos go to Eton, but that ended in disaster. "I tried like hell to make him toe the line," Bluey recalls, "but I was not very successful. We had a family home in Greece, by the sea, and one summer he just didn't show up."
Carlos had scraped together a few hundred pounds and, at the age of 16, lit out for the East. He hitchhiked across Turkey and Iran and finally wound up in the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan, surviving on a series of odd jobs while learning Pashto. He also studied the Koran and converted to Islam, giving himself the name Karirnullah-"blessed by God."'
To this day, no one in Carlos's family knows why he left. At various times it has been suggested that he was rebelling against his family, that he was rebelling against English society, that he was trying to prove himself, that he was trying to impress his father, or that he was just very unhappy. In England, there is a long tradition of the sons of aristocracy risking their lives in central Asia, and Carlos was well aware of it. The impossibly daring spies during England's "Great Game" rivalry with Russia were all from upper-class families-as were Lord Byron, Lawrence of Arabia, and Sir Richard Burton. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, it turns out, was one of Carlos's favorite books.
Carlos stayed away so long-two years-that by the time he returned to England in 1976 his family had given him up for dead. He spent six months recuperating from various diseases, and then, as would occur many times in his life, the pendulum started swinging back. Carlos waded into London's drug and punk scenes and emerged two years later with a heroin addiction and-somehow-a diploma from Millfield, a prestigious prep school in southwestern England. He managed to get into Harvard, studied political science, graduated cum laude, eventually moved to New York, and started working at the Wall Street firm Dominick & Dominick.
By his own admission, Carlos plunged into a life of breathtaking decadence and drug abuse. He lived on Manhattan's East Side, on Beekman Place, and hung out at clubs such as Xenon. "It was the height of the Reagan years, you could do no wrong," he later told a journalist. "Five-figure American Express bills and summer houses by the sea in the Hamptons." He met and socialized with the Kennedys, Oliver Stone, Barbra Streisand. He was good-looking, smart, and horribly charming.
It took a couple of years, but Carlos finally tired of the drugs and the money and the people who came with them. His grandfather Basil had started from scratch and built a shipping company, London & Overseas Freighters, worth $120 million, and Carlos wanted to do something equally grand. He wanted to succeed on his own terms-in a world where his family's name and money meant nothing. The Russians had invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and the mujahideen had declared a holy war against them. Carlos decided that, as a practicing Muslim, it was his right-his duty-to help fight. He would go over there and talk his way into the ranks of the mujahideen. He would fight in defense of Islam.
The first thing he did was contact an English relief organization called Afghan-aid, and from it he got the name of an English freelance cameraman named Peter Jouvenal, who had been covering the war-sometimes for the BBC-almost since the invasion. Jouvenal met with Carlos in London and gave him some contacts in one of the less extreme factions in the war, the Hizbi-Islami Party of Yunis Khalis. At the time, Peshawar was a vast clearinghouse for the weapons and money that were pouring into Afghanistan from the rest of the world, and every mujahideen group had representatives there to vie for the handouts. Carlos tracked down his contacts in Peshawar and persuaded them to let him accompany their fighters into the field.
They left in midwinter, crossing the Spin Ghar Mountains on foot and making their way to a large rebel camp at Black Mountain. According to a mujahideen comrade, Carlos spent a month working as a cook at the base, and he once helped load a BM-12 rocket launcher during an attack on a Russian convoy. He prayed longer and harder than anyone else, insisted on doing streamside ablutions even in winter, and once walked three days on bloody, frozen feet. It was classic Carlos: a bit of the penitent, a bit of the zealot. He had been raised in a stifling upper-class society that would never fully accept him. He had all the instincts that could free him-a great curiosity about the world, a broad streak of wildness-but in doses that created as many problems as they solved. He saw all too clearly what was wrong with the world, and-his fatal flaw-staked his life on fixing it.
"The next time I saw Carlos was in '87," says Peter Jouvenal, who is still based in Kabul. "He came into my hotel room and he'd shaved his head completely: I thought he was an Afghan. He had this thing of trying to blend in and identify with the locals, to be one of them. He used to sleep on the floor of this office, and not on a cushion. Just the complete opposite of the life he was used to."
Carlos spent the late 80s in and out of Afghanistan, fighting in battles around the provinces of PaktZ and Nangarhar. He had gone completely native, and he rarely associated with the fraternity of journalists and relief workers in Peshawar. When he came out of Afghanistan, he wouldn't relax with everyone else at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar: he'd stay with Afghan families and then head back into the war. There are conflicting reports about his involvement-by some accounts, he was a regular foot soldier: by others, a platoon commander who personally shot down two Russian helicopters. Carlos didn't offer details about his experiences, and journalists didn't ask. In all likelihood, he was just another guy with a machine gun, but apparently he was brave-appallingly brave. He had a reputation for always being on the front line, always pushing things. It seemed to many that he was fighting himself as much as he was fighting the Russians. "I've got footage from Carlos that shouldn't have been taken by any sane cameraman," says Mark Stucke, a documentary-film producer who began working in Afghanistan when he was 18. "It wasn't even brave. It was insane."
The Soviets pulled out in February 1989-after killing as many as 1.5 million Afghans-and the country degenerated into a lawless free-for-all between various mujahideen commanders. Peter Jouvenal would run into Carlos from time to time, usually in Peshawar, and suggested that Carlos become a cameraman. Carlos liked the idea, and organized a trip to film the fall of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. Conditions were rough, but Carlos managed to film war footage that secured his place in the journalistic world.
Early on, Jouvenal was reluctant to work with Carlos because he insisted on carrying a gun, but they wound up together in Liberia for three weeks-amid some of the most senseless street-fighting of the decade-and they got along well. Jouvenal was impressed with Carlos's chameleon-like ability to immerse himself in a native culture, although this skill didn't always serve him well. The Gulf War broke out soon after their Liberia trip, so Jouvenal and Carlos decided to sneak into northern Iraq to get footage of the Kurdish refugee camps. As soon as they got to Turkey, Carlos bought himself a traditional Kurdish outfit, which immediately brought him under the scrutiny of the authorities. The Turks have been fighting the Kurds along the Iraqi border for most of the past century, and it was actually illegal to wear Kurdish clothing on Turkish soil. When the bus was stopped and searched along the Iraqi border, the soldiers dragged Carlos out and made him prove that he wasn't a Kurdish rebel.
Carlos spent the next few years shuttling from one hellhole to another-Burma, Rwanda, the Sudan, Somalia, Bosnia, Angola, Colombia. Stories about him began to circulate: how he ran through gunfire on a Somalian beach to grab lobsters for his friends; how he rolled a dead hand grenade into the lobby of the Addis Ababa Hilton in order to rattle a group of journalists; how he knew Somalia so well that he was able to negotiate his way through the treacherous front lines in Mogadishu. Carlos had an ability to go native that impressed even teenage gunmen at roadblocks.
"His intelligence was an artistic intelligence, a human intelligence," says Stucke; "I was dead surprised when he said, 'I have a production company.' I'd always thought, This guy can't make it in the real world. But at the same time, he had absolute brilliance in those sensitive sides. He could relate to anybody. Wherever you went-around the other side of the world, into the middle of the Asian jungle, and there'd be Asian rebels eating fermented monkey shit. He'd be right there, saying, 'Give me a taste.' It's like a national food for that tribe, and instantly he'd make a connection, and he'd look them in the eye and they'd look him in the eye, and they'd be blood brothers in no time at all. His family doesn't have any idea about that part of him."
His family did, however, know about the heroin. He'd struggled with it since his punk days in London, but he'd always been able to keep it separate from the rest of his life. When he was with the mujahideen, he didn't touch anything, even cigarettes. And when Carlos was on assignment, he managed to keep his drug habits hidden from the people he worked with. Peter Jouvenal never saw him use drugs, despite several long assignments with him, and neither did Leslie Cockburn, the 60 Minutes producer who had sent him to Peshawar after the missile strikes. His use was intermittent and extremely well concealed. "It wasn't until I made a film on the cocaine industry in Colombia, which Carlos shot, -that I found out about his addiction," says Stucke. "He was one of those professionals-and you come across them every now and then-who have a serious, serious vice but somehow keep it under control. He wasn't loose all the time. He was adept at manipulating the scenario so that the nearest and dearest and colleagues and employers didn't need to find out about it."
Still, Carlos occasionally ran into trouble-particularly after he'd suffered a disappointment, or when no one was around to see. In 1996 he went into Afghanistan to interview bin Laden, who had recently fled there from the Sudan. As it turned out, bin Laden had been taken in by a man known as Engineer Mahmood, Carlos's old commander during the jihad, and Carlos figured he might be able to score an interview. The Associated Press gave him the assignment, and Carlos went into Jalalabad with a guide named Abdullah (the same Abdullah who had nearly been executed for being too close to the bombed training camps). According to Abdullah, Mahmood didn't arrange an interview with bin Laden, so Carlos retreated to his hotel room, where he started smoking heroin. Abdullah said that he had to go to the A.P. office in Islamabad in order to get paid.
About three years earlier, Carlos had gone to a drug clinic outside of London, and his doctor, Robert Lefever, swears that Carlos had not had a major relapse since then. But that depends on what you call a relapse. True, he was no longer injecting heroin in London-those days were over. But a little smoking from time to time? An occasional weeklong bender in Burma or Afghanistan? Almost certainly. Carlos worked in some of the biggest drug-producing countries in the world. It's inconceivable that he didn't dip into his old habit from time to time.
Not long before his death, a member of Carlos's family caught him smoking heroin in a bathroom. When the relative asked why he had turned back to drugs, Carlos replied, "Because I thought I could get away with it."
"My first impression of Carlos was that he was mad," says Tannaz Fazaipour, whom Carlos had intended to marry after returning from Peshawar. Fazaipour is from a wealthy Iranian family that moved to England before the Islamic revolution of 1979. She met Carlos in London in 1996 shortly before he began working on a documentary about Cuba. "He turned up wearing a long Mongolian shepherd's coat at my house in London, but I knew immediately that we were going to go out-so much so that in my diary I stuck a picture of him on the day we met, knowing I would look back and say, 'That was the day I met him.' I could just tell by the way he was looking at me that he was, you know, interested. We spent five weeks together-morning, noon, and night-traveling across Cuba and back to the States. We sort of maintained professional relations until we got back to London. We spent Christmas together, and it kind of took off from there."
Until he met Fazaipour, Carlos's relationships with women had been predictably disastrous. He always went out with beautiful women from exactly the kinds of upper-class families that he loathed. "He's never had an Afghani peasant as a girlfriend," as Fazaipour puts it. Past girlfriends included Mary Richardson, who is now married to Robert Kennedy Jr.; Annabel Heseltine, the daughter of a former English deputy prime minister; and reportedly even Fawn Hall, Oliver North's infamous secretary during the Iran-contra scandal. Some of Carlos's girlfriends would tire of waiting for him to return from some war zone or another and break off the relationship. "He had this pattern of being very self-destructive when things were going really well," says Syrie Mavroleon, his half-sister. "He'd do something deliberately just to fuck it all up because he wasn't worth it. He had no self-worth, Carlos; he used to beat himself up terribly."
All that changed with Famipour. Within weeks of meeting her, Carlos told her that he wanted to get out of the high-adrenaline frontline work and do more documentaries. He started a company called Black Lion Television ("Mavroleon" is Greek for "black lion") and set about trying to get work from the major networks. According to Mark Stucke, the competition in this field is brutal: out of 900 or so such production companies in London, only 3 or 4 can truly be considered successful. Carlos's was not one of them. At 40, he was desperate for some sort of conventional success, and he was increasingly interested in having children. (Syrie had recently moved back to London with her two small children, and Carlos had started spending a lot of time with them. The experience affected him deeply.) On July 14, 1998, with Black Lion Television still struggling, he asked Faiaipour to marry him. She accepted, and they picked a date for the following November. The Mavroleon family trust enabled the couple to start looking for a house in London.
A week later, though, Carlos left for Africa. He had been assigned by England's Channel 4 News to shoot a documentary on the Sudanese famine. While he was there, Carlos also shot some footage on slavery and flew back to London via Nairobi. The Kenyan exit visa in his passport was stamped on August 5, two days before bin Laden operatives allegedly bombed the American Embassy in Nairobi. Carlos arrived in London, mailed his tapes, and quickly packed for a family vacation in Greece.
Every year the paternal side of the family gathers at Bluey's seaside property outside Athens-boat trips, long lunches, and lightning bolts of family tension. Carlos and Bluey got into a huge argument over the war in the Congo, and Syrie intervened-and her stepmother, Caroline, was eventually dragged into the fight. It took days to sort things out. Just before leaving, Carlos was jolted awake by a nightmare: he was driving a car very fast, and when he tried to slow down, nothing happened. His car had no brakes.
On August 20, Carlos and Tannaz caught a boat to Athens and then flew back to London; on the plane they heard about the cruise-missile strikes in Afghanistan. When Carlos walked into his tiny Chelsea apartment late that night, he had 14 messages on his answering machine-all from various television producers looking for footage from the destroyed camps. One of the messages was from Leslie Cockburn, the 60 Minutes producer who had worked with Carlos in Somalia and Afghanistan. (Cockburn is also a YI;:contributing editor.) Carlos immediately called her back. "I wonder why you're calling," he said sarcastically. "I have 14 messages on my machine, and I have a multiple Afghan visa." Carlos told friends he had been offered £1,000 a day-a huge amount for him-and said that Cockburn and her crew would try to join him in Peshawar. In the meantime, Carlos would attempt to get into the camps as fast as he could. The next day, August 21, CBS pulled some strings at the Pakistan Embassy in London and got him a double-entry visa. Carlos picked up a satellite phone from CBS's London bureau, bought a Sony digital camera and 14 hours' worth of tape, and booked a first-class seat on Emirates airline. He left the next day, connecting through Dubai and landing in Islamabad the following morning. It was Sunday, August 23-three days after the missile strikes. Carlos hired a taxi for the three-hour drive to Peshawar and arrived by late afternoon. The first thing he did—even before dropping his bags off at Green's Hotel-was visit Rahimullah Yusufiai, a correspondent for a Pakistan newspaper called The News International. Yusufiai is a well-known reporter with excellent relations to the Taliban and, it is rumored, contacts with Pakistan intelligence operatives. As a reporter he is immensely knowledgeable; every foreign journalist arriving in Peshawar makes the pilgrimage-around the corner from Green's, down a back alley, up two dark flights of stairs-to the offices of The News.
Yusufzai immediately told Carlos that the Taliban were not letting foreigners into Afghanistan, and that his only chance was to walk across the border from a small town called Miram Shah. But he would still need permission to enter the tribal territories-and that was nearly impossible to get. The only alternative was to sneak in disguised as a local and cross the border undetected.
It was a long shot, but Carlos was convinced that if he could get into Miram Shah he'd be O.K. He knew a former commander named Jalaluddin Haqqani, who had helped to establish the first mujahideen training camps years earlier. Haqqani was still in control of a camp called Zhawar, across the border from Miram Shah. Carlos told Yusufzai that he would present himself at Haqqani's compound in Miram Shah and ask Haqqani to take him into the camps. As with Engineer Mahmood two years before, Carlos hoped to use his connections as a former mujahideen to get in. He spoke Pashto, dressed-and looked- Afghan, and was one of the only journalists in the world who had fought with the mujahideen.
After talking to Yusufiai, Carlos checked into Room 304 at Green's Hotel and called Leslie Cockburn to tell her he'd arrived. He told her that the border was closed, but that the next morning he was going to request permission to enter the tribal territories. He said he'd call her when he knew more. One could imagine him falling into an exhausted sleep and waking up just before dawn, the streets still quiet and the Islamic call to prayer drifting over the city. It's an ancient, quavering sound that must have awakened in Carlos the most vivid, powerful memories. This was his big chance: he was in a position to get footage that no one else in the world had access to. It would firmly establish Black Lion as a force in television news, and it would give him the kind of self-made financial security-and respect-he'd craved for years. He was 40 years old and about to get married. He could not screw this up.
The next morning Carlos took a motorized rickshaw to an ugly concrete building off Jamrud Road, where the tribal administration is located. The authorities told him flat out that he could not enter the tribal territories. It was the same tired old game: the tribal territories had remained off-limits throughout the entire war, but it was the only way journalists could get into Afghanistan, so they'd been ducking the authorities there for years. Most journalists at the time grew beards and wore turbans; a few even dressed like women.
Undaunted, Carlos went straight from the home secretary's office to Yusufzai's and asked one of the other journalists there-a young man named Arshad Ayyub if he would accompany him into the camps. Ayyub told Carlos that it was too dangerous, but he would help him find a driver with a Toyota four-wheel-drivepickup-a "Hi-Lux," as they're called. Hi-Luxes are the favored vehicles of the warlords and gunmen in Afghanistan. Carlos hired a driver and a Toyota, grabbed his satellite phone and video cameras at Green's, and probably left Peshawar within the hour.
By nightfall, Carlos had gotten as far as the old oasis town of Bannu, where he checked into the Aamer Hotel. The next morning, according to his receipt book, Carlos spent 180 rupees (roughly $3) on a cassette tape for the driver-"to prevent passenger from incipient madness," he noted-and $8 on a stethoscope. The stethoscope would be part of his disguise to slip into the hospital in Miram Shah.
The missile strikes had killed 26 people and wounded scores of others, many of whom had been brought across the border to the hospital in Miram Shah. If Carlos couldn't get into the camps, at least he might be able to film some of the survivors in their hospital beds.
Carlos ate lunch in Bannu, boarded a bus, and by mid-afternoon was bouncing toward Miram Shah. The road leaves behind the irrigated fields and dusty plains of Bannu and climbs up into the dead brown mountains of North Waziristan. The people there are wild and well armed, and the Pakistan police have no authority at all; men carry machine guns as if they were farm implements or cricket bats. A little higher up into the hills stand plots of date trees, heavy with fruit, and walled family compounds surrounded by fields of dark, plowed-over earth. Behind them are the mountains of Afghanistan, barren except for occasional foragers of vegetation. It would be impossible for anyone undertaking a mission like Carlos's to look at those mountains and not feel dread.
"He was found out immediately," says Yusufzai, who was in regular phone contact with Carlos that day. "It is not easy, you know, to stay hidden in Miram Shah. Besides the political administration, there are these [intelligence officers] in civil dress--on the border, in the bazaar, on the road, at the checkpoints. Carlos may have stopped in the bazaar to buy something, I don't know, but he was found out immediately."
Already aware that he was being tailed, Carlos dropped by the hospital and then went straight to Haqqani's home, located in a whitewashed compound on the outskirts of Miram Shah. Carlos knocked on the door and was greeted by Haqqani's son Hussain, who said that he'd missed Haqqani by 10 minutes. Hussain invited Carlos in for tea, and while he was there two intelligence agents came to the door and demanded to know if Carlos had permission to be in the tribal territories. Carlos said no. The two men left and returned a short time later to arrest him. In the interim, he left a message on Leslie Cockburn's answering machine: "I'm in a very bad situation," he warned her. "They're onto me in a big way."
Pakistan officials disclosed little information about Carlos's detention, although his notebooks claim that he paid $500 in order to secure a private jail cell and to ensure that his equipment wasn't stolen. He also wrote a letter asking for help from a doctor at the local hospital, but it was never sent. He was not beaten during his interrogation, nor was he humiliated. Without laying a hand on him, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (I.S.I.) managed to put the fear of God in him.
"You're in a gray, dingy room with a bare light bulb," says Mark Stucke, who has also been interrogated by the I.S.I. "No toilets, no nothing…? They would have been accusing him very directly and simply. Five or six guys just pushing him up against a wall, telling him he's lying, shining lights in his eyes, keeping him awake. They would have said, 'You're a journalist. You're working for the Americans. If we catch you lying, we're going to get you.' He would have walked out, but he would have been worried that, one way or another, they would prove he was under contract with an American network. And then what happens? He's invisible to the world, and they could come get him anytime they want. They are a law unto themselves."
On August 7-the day of the embassy bombings-police at the Karachi airport had grabbed a man named Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, who was suspected of being a bin Laden operative. Pakistan police claimed he confessed to involvement in the bombings, although Odeh later said the confession had been coerced. One can only imagine, then, what the I.S.I. must have thought when they grabbed Carlos-dressed as an Afghan and carrying a satellite phone-also trying to get across the border. And then they would have opened his passport and seen that he'd left Nairobi just two days before the bombing. They would have thought he was either a bin Laden agent or an American spy. Far from allaying their suspicions, his CBS credentials would have been exactly the kind of cover they would assume an American spy would use. Carlos was suddenly in the kind of trouble that even embassies and heads of state can't get you out of. He was in the kind of trouble that can get you tortured or dumped in a culvert, dead.
Neither happened. The I.S.I. must have decided that Carlos was telling the truth. Or perhaps it decided that it could pick him up anytime and simply wanted to see his next move. The following morning, August 26, Carlos was released from jail and driven by intelligence agents back to Bannu. They put him on a bus, and he arrived in Peshawar late that afternoon. He didn't even walk around the comer and say hello to Yusufzai. He just went back to Green's Hotel.
Around 9:30 that night he called Fazaipour and told her what had happened. "Did they treat you badly?” she asked.
"No." he replied.
"Don't lie--did they beat you up?"
Carlos insisted they hadn't, but he was frightened. Fazaipour offered to meet him in Islamabad the next day, but he said he'd be out of Pakistan in 48 hours. They hung up, and Carlos called the CBS office in New York and left a message for Leslie Cockburn. She called him as soon as she got in, at one A.M. Pakistan time, but he didn't answer, even though he was almost certainly in the room. She tried again at seven A.M. and woke him up. He said to call back in half an hour, but when she did, he had already left. A little later that morning an Englishwoman named Sue Roaf was driving down the Grand Trunk Road when she saw Carlos get into a rickshaw in front of the Pearl Continental. "There was a cocky air about him," she says. "He looked like he was being clever."
It's likely that Carlos had gone to the hotel to find Peter Jouvenal, who had just arrived in town. Jouvenal wasn't there, because he was visiting Yusufzai, whose office was the next place Carlos thought to look. Both men say that Carlos was in very high spirits when he walked in the door. He told them that an Urdu newspaper had reported that he was a spy, which seemed to amuse him greatly. He chatted for a while and then trotted out of the office, though not before making plans to meet Jouvenal for dinner. The staff at Green's Hotel report that he came back briefly around noon and asked an employee named Shuja Uddin to translate the Urdu newspaper article for him. Then he left again and didn't come back until four or five, going straight to his room. Soon after that CBS started calling from New York and Fazaipour started calling from London. He never picked up the phone.
For the next two hours both his satellite phone and his room phone rang intermittently, without answer. Finally, around 9:30 P.M., Shuja Uddin and the general manager, Arif Chaudhry, went upstairs and knocked on Carlos's door. There was no response, so they stuck a master key in the doorknob and entered. Carlos was shirtless, slumped over on the side of his bed. His right arm hung down to the floor. He didn't respond when they said his name.
The doctor who was summoned to the hotel by Police Chief Saad estimated that Carlos had died three or four hours earlier-soon after he had returned to his room. The body was transferred to the Khyber Medical College that night, and an autopsy was performed at eight A.M. by a top forensic specialist, Dr. Inayatur-Rahman Khalil. Blood taken from the left side of the heart showed high concentrations of diacetylmorphine-heroin-as did tissue taken from a minute injection site on his left arm. The syringe that was found under the bed also tested positive for heroin. Carlos's scalp and skull were intact, and the neck was untouched. In other words, there were no signs of a struggle.
While the autopsy was performed, Malik Saad conducted a much more thorough search of Carlos's room. Peter Jouvenal was summoned to the scene, and when he walked into the hotel lobby, three I.S.I. agents immediately started questioning him about whether Carlos was a Muslim. Jouvenal said that he thought Carlos was, and the three agents accompanied him into the room to meet with Saad. With Jouvenal watching, one of them lifted the television and found three packets of white powder, one of them already opened. The packets, as it turned out, contained crude opium powder, brown heroin, and an antihistamine tranquilizer. The heroin was 60 percent pure and of a type easily bought at a taxi stand around the corner from Green's. It would have cost about a dollar.
The questions that would torment certain members of the Mavroleon family were whether the drugs could have been planted in the room, and whether Carlos could have been forced or manipulated into injecting himself. It's not an unreasonable idea. It was an unstable time in Peshawar, and anyone who wanted the death to look self-inflicted would have turned to Carlos's heroin problem. Still, it would have been hard to pull off. Several men would have had to enter Carlos's room undetected, enjoin him to smoke heroin with them, and then inject him against his will. They also would have had to remain sober enough to make their escape past the hotel guards and the reception desk.
And, moreover, why would they? It's inconceivable that during the two or three hours Carlos spent in Miram Shah he managed to find out something that wasn't already generally known. (Several days later, in fact, Rahimullah Yusufmi drove into the camps, shot footage of the destruction, and sold it to the BBC and ABC.) The only footage that Carlos might have filmed was that of wounded Afghans inside the Miram Shah hospital, but, if anything, that was great anti-American propaganda.
And even if Pakistan intelligence had had reason to kill him, it would never have done it with such subtlety. This was a time, after all, when two Westerners were gunned down in Kabul in broad daylight. Carlos would have suffered the same fate. It would have been much easier for the I.S.I. to have dumped him in a ravine-there were plenty of terrorists around to blame the murder on. In all likelihood, Carlos returned to the hotel room buoyed by the novelty of being in Peshawar, but still disappointed. Had things gone well, this trip could have turned his whole life around; it would have given his business a tremendous boost and instilled in him exactly the kind of confidence he needed.
He would have smoked a little bit and then-perhaps unsatisfied with the low-quality heroin --dissolved a little in alcohol or hot tap water. Syringes are a standard part of any Third World travel kit, so he would have got one out of his bag and filled it with the dissolved heroin. Carlos was a fit, sinewy man, and he would not have needed a tourniquet to find a vein; he would have just laid his left arm out and slid the needle in. Then he would have sat on the edge of his bed, looking out the window at the dusty rooftops of Peshawar and waiting for the heroin to take effect.
The effect would have been massive. He had been relatively clean lately, so his heroin tolerance would have been very low. Within minutes his respiratory system would have started to slow down, and less and less oxygen would have been getting into his lungs. The cigarette in his mouth would have cut down on his air supply still further. Carlos may have registered the fact that he was suffocating, but it would not have bothered him. One of the reasons heroin is so blissful is that it suppresses the reticular-activating system, which governs our state of alertness, as well as our response to pain. Carlos would have started to shiver with cold, his breathing would have gotten shallower, and he would have started to suffocate. He would have known something was wrong, but he wouldn't have been able to do anything about it. And it wouldn't have mattered much to him anyway. It would all be happening at some wonderful, numb distance. His death would have struck him as the least interesting thing in the world.