The Amira Chronicles (Introduction)

By Keith Kloor | October 4, 2013 2:41 pm

A story that I have been working on for some time is being published this Sunday in the Washington Post magazine. “The Princess of Somalia” is a long feature with a great photo spread. If you live in the Beltway area, be sure to have a look.

The piece, which is unlike anything I have ever done, has been posted online today. I’ve been following this story since 2009, which is when I first met Michele Ballarin, who presented herself as someone who could tame Somali pirates and warlords and rebuild a broken country. She seemed to have the ear of Somali politicians and clan leaders; she also had a dubious background that didn’t take long to uncover. But the revolving door of associates she had in the U.S. military and intelligence community proved fascinating, so I followed that trail for a while, until it led me into a hall of mirrors.

Ballarin is such a colorful character that she was bound to pop up on the radar of other journalists. A reporter for Voice of America sandbagged her in 2010, and Mark Mazzetti, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter for the New York Times, uncovered enough juicy tidbits for a chapter on her in his recent book: Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth.

I knew I had the backstory (and much more) on Ballarin, so I gnashed my teeth when those pieces came out. But I kept digging. Every time I was ready to put the shovel down, something new would turn up that made me think there was more to be found. I still think that’s the case.

You’ll certainly get a flavor of all this from my Washington Post magazine story. But there’s too much good stuff that didn’t make it in there that I can’t let fall by the wayside. The story has to be told in full. So for the next week, check back here twice a day (morning and evening). In this post, I’ve provided links to my story and others that should be enough to digest for now. What follows in the days ahead I think you’ll find equally interesting.

  • mem_somerville

    That’s a story that I knew absolutely nothing about. But eager to read the details. Sounds like it should be a film.


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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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