Postcard: Playas

In the southwestern corner of New Mexico, a tiny town plays the role of terrorist haven. How the war on terrorism saved one desert outpost

Rick Scibelli Jr. / Polaris for TIME

A SWAT team from Washington State storms a home in Playas.

Mesquite is a quiet street in the small, high-desert town of Playas, N.M., just north of the Mexican border. Suddenly it is alive with action. A heavily armed SWAT team races toward two adobe houses where terrorists are holed up, according to reports from a confidential informant. The troopers smash down the door of one, blow open two doors of the other and disappear inside.

Moments later, a blond woman runs out, hands in the air. It is the informant, and the terrorists have draped her in a suicide-bomber vest. Nobody knows whether it has been timed to detonate. For several...

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