The men were firing their Kalashnikovs so close by that I was certain I could hear the bullet casings cascading down onto the roof of the tent. A crowd of women swaddled in black cupped their hands over their veiled mouths to emit a wave of high-pitched ululations — a call of celebration familiar across the Middle East. The 16-year-old bride, draped in a sparkly white gown, henna tattoos running up her arms, sat silent and tearful as she prepared to meet her groom for the first time. I hadn't meant to spend the night in this tiny village in a country everyone is pointing to as the next hub of global terrorism. But it's not every day that you get invited to an Al-Qaeda wedding.
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