watch a slideshow
gulf of oman dispatches

+ "Faces at a Dubai Mall"
15 August, Dubai, U.A.E.

+ "HMCS Algonquin"
16 August, somewhere in the Gulf of Oman

+ "On Board the Algonquin"
17-18 August, somewhere in the Gulf of Oman

+ "Like an Elephant Chasing a Mouse"
17-18 August, Gulf of Oman

+ "Dubai to Karachi"
20 August

+ "A Firehose of Information"
20-21 August, Dubai - Muscat - Chennai

From London, FRONTLINE's team flew to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, to investigate what's believed to be a likely Al Qaeda escape route across the Gulf of Oman.

For years, small, hard-to-intercept boats called "go-fasts" have ferried illegal immigrants from Pakistan and Iran across the Gulf of Oman to the Arabian peninsula. Since Sept. 11, authorities suspect some of the passengers are Arab Al Qaeda fighters trying to return home.

In Dubai, FRONTLINE's producers were escorted to an undisclosed location and taken aboard the Canadian warship HMCS Algonquin. The Algonquin is part of a dragnet of 100 ships from a dozen countries patrolling the Gulf of Oman, boarding and searching suspicious vessels, looking for Al Qaeda fugitives. Since November 2001, the patrol ships have hailed more than 17,500 vessels -- but they've netted only four low-level Al Qaeda suspects.

FRONTLINE's team spent three days on the warship. (Read, on the left of this page, their e-mail dispatches, which offer a fascinating behind-the-scenes perspective on a FRONTLINE documentary in the making). They listened to the Canadian sailors' stories of smugglers, and one of the producers' dispatches chronicles the high-speed boat chases.

On the second day, producer Martin Smith and cameraman Scott Anger accompanied the HMCS Algonquin crew as they boarded a Chinese fishing vessel. Despite some suspicious evidence -- the fishing boat did not smell like fish at all, and winches that haul the nets out of the water were rusted solid -- no stowaway Al Qaeda suspects were found.

The day after returning to Dubai, co-producer Marcela Gaviria and cameraman Anger countinued on their journey to Pakistan. Smith took a detour to Chennai -- formerly Madras -- on the east coast of India, to visit a family member, and to interview B. Raman, a former spy for India's foreign intelligence agency. Raman scoffed at accounts of thousands of Al Qaeda members in sleeper cells around the world. But he told Smith that he has good evidence that Osama bin Laden is hiding out in a madrassa in Karachi, Pakistan.

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inside the tribal areas - ground zero: pakistan
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