Watching the men approach, Ahmed Abdullah readied the Glock 9 mm pistol in his lap and waited.
Traffic had stalled, as it often did, on Main Supply Route Tampa. American forces somewhere ahead were sweeping for improvised explosive devices, turning the highway from Balad south to Baghdad into a makeshift motor camp. Parked vehicles, scattered haphazardly on and off the pavement, had disgorged their occupants into the summer heat. People stood in clusters to talk or walked in search of a breeze.