S7: Jihad

byqhml1©

.........

I got visits, warnings, instructions. It wasn't my fight any longer, let it die, my family needed me, etc.

I just smiled and agreed with them all.

Then I bought a burner phone and dialed a number I had memorized years ago. "Jihad," I said quietly.

"Jihad," said the voice on the other end. Four days later a private jet was parked at the closest airport, waiting.

I kissed the kids, trying to make them understand. With their upbringing, they had a better understanding than most about what I was doing. Maddy drove me South, gave me a tremendous kiss and a warning before she let me out of the car.

"Come back. Do you hear me? COME BACK! If you die, I die. So be careful, and avoid taking chances. The kids and I fully expect to see you, soon."

She drove off without looking back. as I stood and watched until she disappeared around a curve. I was met at the jet by Sherry's father and brother, both grim looking men. We hugged, exchanged greetings, and boarded the jet.

You couldn't possibly imagine my surprise when I found Will already inside. He grinned.

"What? You think Maddy and Molly were just going to let you stumble around on your own? I've been tasked with bringing you back safe, so please, don't get us killed."

We talked of many things during the flight and over the next week. I was surprised by the rage the Prince showed.

"We intend to destroy them. By the time we're done, ISIS will be a very bad memory. People will grimace and spit on the ground if their name is mentioned."

"I assume you have a plan?"

"We have part of a plan. Perhaps you and your companion could help us out in completing it."

To our surprise, Will had served in the intelligence corps, as a reviewer of strategic plans. His group was tasked with finding weaknesses in any plan and offer suggestions. It appears he was very good at his job.

"Look," he said one night, "it's just a fact of life that we can't kill them all. But you don't have to kill all the individuals, just destroy the group. Kill their leaders, disrupt their supply lines, destroy communications, steal their funding, turn the populace against them, and they'll fade away like a bad dream. Then when they're weakest, attack in numbers."

He was immediately given the task of destroying their infrastructure, no idea was to outrageous, money was no object.

I was asked what I wanted, and was gifted with a team of wolves. Omar had watched as his wife was raped to death and his two infant daughters were executed, before being shot four times and left for dead. He had that vacant, 'thousand yard stare' you read about, and was fanatical about destroying his enemies.

Jamal was a slender man, about five four, and pound for pound was the most dangerous man I'd ever seen. He'd watched his parent die as a twelve year old, and was beaten and raped by some of the enemy with 'tendencies'. One was so smitten that he decided to keep him as a concubine. He was beaten and raped for four months before opportunity presented itself, and he killed his owner, then went through the house with a knife and a club, until the whole unit was dead. There were five other victims, and they armed themselves and fought their way to safety. Only Jamal and a youth called Mohammad survived.

Jamal spent the next eight years learning every way possible to kill another human being. He could improvise poisons, gases, and explosive devices from household items. A dead shot with any weapon, he could have held black belts in five forms of martial arts if he would have been inclined to test for them. He could speak five languages and dialects, could fit in to almost any group, and always had at least two escape strategies planned. After all, he would say, how can I slay more of my enemies if I'm dead? In short, he was the perfect killing machine.

Over time, Omar and I became friends of a sort, but to Jamal, I was just a tool to be used to achieve his goal.

Mohammad had been wounded during their escape, and had to use a cane to walk. Not being able to physically help Jamal, he trained in computer science until nothing stored on a computer was safe from his grasp. The Princes found a very good use for him. He was assigned to our group as technical liaison.

There were eight more members of my group, killers all, hard bitten, with a common goal. Destroy ISIS.

.........

The princes had one more surprise for me. Will and I were taken out into the desert, fifty miles from anyone. We approached an outcropping of rock, and were surprised to see a narrow track leading right into it.

There was a pretty big complex inside, with about twenty guys sitting at consoles.

"Twelve inch stainless steel doors, walls, and ceilings. Self enclosed ventilation system with filters and scrubbers. Two different escape plans no one knows about that will reveal themselves should the situation call for it. Satellite driven , by a satellite we own. An eight month supply of food and water, should things get desperate. Every one of our crew is alone in the world, the only family they have is each other. All selected with one goal in mind. Destroy the enemy. Follow me, please."

I turned to see a grinning Mohammad and Sherry's father. We walked past another room with about ten people clustered around consoles, six of whom were carefully manipulating joysticks.

"Our pilots," he said, proudly.

We walked into his office, a large, well appointed room, and motioned us to a conference table, with a tablet in front of every seat.

"You know drones, yes?" I nodded and clicked

a controller, and we were viewing a hangar from an overhead camera. It was filled with planes. Some were quite small, but five were enormous.

"Our personal air force. Thirty of them, five strictly for recon and surveillance, the five largest have bomb carrying capabilities, the rest armed with rockets and wing cannon. We haven't used them yet, but the time is coming."

I sat and thought about the cost for this. It had to run into the tens of millions. Apparently the Prince had a lot of money. He looked like he was reading my mind.

"Yes, it is expensive. Without going into detail, I'm not the only one funding this. There are other like minded people who have reached their limit with these fanatics, and want as permanent a solution as possible. Now that you know what we can do, let me share some information with you, so you can help us plot a course of action."

Will was beyond excited.

"We could do a lot of damage with those, but my first thought is they will be shot down by any one of the three, maybe four Air Forces operating in the area, because they will view them as a threat."

Mohammad had a grim smile on his face. "Oh, we have reached out, and when we explained our mission, the countries involved were uneasy. When we explained we had no interest in the politics of the area, we only had one purpose, destroying a common enemy, most agreed to leave us in peace. The one country who didn't had it explained gently that should they interfere or shoot one of ours down, it would get very ugly. It remains to be seen what would happen should our drones and their planes be in close proximity."

We spent three days going over intelligence, deciding the best way to hurt the enemy. Will held the deciding vote.

"Like I said before, destroy the infrastructure. The first step is to cut off their funds. It's hard to buy weapons and ammunition if you're broke. In my opinion, we shouldn't take any credit for the things we do. Fear and doubt can be pretty demoralizing, leave them wondering if any of their allies have betrayed them. Leave false trails, vague enough to be unsubstantiated, but clear enough to lead them to doubt their friends."

We decide, after a little deliberation, on two immediate plans. I got in touch with my old Kurdish friends, offering to supply the equipment they needed, and a five thousand dollar bonus for every oil tanker they took or destroyed. In two months, the smuggling of oil across the border into Turkey by ISIS dropped seventy five percent.

It was all set up through intermediaries, so they had no idea who was behind the operation, but they were happy with the new weapons, and the money went a long way towards enlarging their war chest.

While this was going on, I lead my wolves in three raids. The first raid destroyed a large equipment depot, earth movers mostly, that they used to plunder tombs and raze buildings with, selling the antiquities they recovered on the black market. Seems they had learned a little something from S7.

The second raid, less than a day later and five hundred miles away, destroyed a warehouse that they used to store the objects before selling them. I'd like to say we recovered most of them first, but that wasn't really the mission. I still managed to get two truck's worth saved.

The third, in another area a week later, was symbolic. We wanted to make a statement. My wolves and two more teams surprised and overran a small stronghold, capturing their leader and a minor Mufti, rabid supporters of their cause. Using their own equipment, we beheaded them live on the internet, but not before I warned the enemy that this would be the first of many.

Jamal did the beheadings, his only request as a reward for his efforts.

.........

The blow back was enormous, hitting every major media outlet in the world. Every country involved in the area had plausible deniability, which they used to the fullest.

My group got lucky, although luck was aided by quite a bit of money being spread around. We captured what amounted to the number four man in charge of their finances, and after a little gentle persuasion, he talked. He was a tough old bird, even after losing an eye and an ear he stayed quiet. It was only after we showed him a film of his family being taken, with the promise for every day he didn't talk on would be beheaded, starting with the youngest first. Jamal was pretty convincing, and although he waited until the last minute, the sight of an eight year old boy with a scimitar to his throat swayed him.

The whole thing was faked, his family was too well protected for us to get close to, but we shot the video using actors made up to look like his family, leaving the camera just a touch out of focus. The deciding factor was the young boy begging, computer generated using voice samples.

After three days we had wrung all the information we could out of him, and Jamal took him out into the desert, returning alone. I said nothing. The guy was just a bag man, when it came down to it, but he gave up account numbers and passwords that enabled us to wreak a little havoc.

Mohammad had one of his teams dig as deeply as possible, and one thing led to another, until we had a pretty good idea of their cash flow. The smaller accounts were emptied, and deposited into the accounts of a few enemies and even more allies, leaving just enough information for it to be traced back.

Tensions escalated, and when we stumbled into one account that held a little over three million, we took it, donating it publicly in their name to a group that championed women's rights to a better life and educational opportunities. To make it even better, Mohammad used voice recognition hardware, cherry picking the words he needed and blending them until they sounded like natural speech, and overdubbed it onto a speech the third in command of the Syrian section had given recently. In it he personally apologized for his role in how women were viewed and treated, vowing to change his organization into a more open and caring movement.

They immediately demanded the money back, of course, and the organization told them to bring suit in the World Court. Of course, since the World Court is located in Europe and they would have to appear, the protest died quickly.

One of Mohammad's operators came up with a spoof, overlaying cartoon characters as victims of beheadings, having the executioner hold up a cartoon head and bragging about sending the infidel into hell. It was part of the plan, to reduce the fear and impact of the organization in the minds of the populace.

It had been three months, and I made video calls home from what I called the stronghold, at least once a month. It was painful at first, to see my family and not be with them, but we acclimated, and as long as I seemed unharmed Maddy stayed upbeat.

Will called us all into a meeting, the excitement obvious in his voice. "I got this idea, believe it or not, from a science fiction novel I read. You all know the situation in Smyrna, right?"

We nodded. Held by ISIS, completely cut off, the town was all but decimated by the air strikes from their own government and another country's Air Force. People were dying of starvation, disease, were shot at random to keep them in submission. As Will outlined his plan, we all grinned. This might work.

Three nights later, our five 'bombers' took off, with five of our fighters along as guards. Each bomber held five thousand pounds of food and medicine, which we dropped into the city, making sure each sector of the town received a load. I know, it wasn't a lot, and the enemy probably got a good share of it, but we were making a point.

It was all over the international news, speculation rampant over who was behind it.

Two days later we dropped another load, and the day after, another. The foreign Air Force who had been bombing the town sent two fighters to intercept, demanding we turn back or be shot down. Their radar pinged, and they saw they were targeted by five new aircraft. A warning, broadcast in their language, to leave us in peace, was sent. Outgunned, they peeled off.

The next run, instead of dropping food, dropped leaflets, saying for the runs to continue, we had to see the bodies of least ten ISIS fighters laid out in the desert. Until then, there would be no more aid. Failure to do so, and the next 'shipment' would be delivered in two weeks, in the form of bombs. To give them a taste, we bombed the outskirts of town, hitting the enemy command post. We also said that to aid them, another load would be dropped tomorrow.

We dropped the packages, each one containing a little food, and weapons, mostly handguns. Then we didn't do anything for eight days. using one of the surveillance drones to keep track of the situation. On the dawn of the ninth day, fifteen bodies, lying in a row, face up, appeared in the desert just outside the town. Facial recognition software confirmed at least three known ISIS personnel. We dropped two runs of supplies the next night.

A week later, twenty bodies lay in the sand, three with their heads resting beside them. I marked that up to Jamal and Omar, who had done a HALO insertion ten days ago.

Two days later, our surveillance drones picked up images of a pitched battle, and we scrambled our fighters and two bombers. As terrorists tried to flee, the fighters began strafing runs, decimating every organized attempt to retreat. Finally, our fighters pulled back, and a small convoy broke from the city, traveling at top speeds. Four SUV's, two Humvees, and two large trucks. The bombers circled, allowing them to clear the city, then dropped their payload.

Each bomber had a 2500 pound bomb, which they released at high altitude. As the bomb descended, it broke into ten 250 pound bombs, and then later into twenty five pound units. Two out of every four bombs were fragmentary, one incindiary, and the other was either smoke or delayed fuse, burrowing into the terrain, going off between two and twenty hours later. When they hit, they covered an area about four football fields square, a bomb hitting every square yard. When the smoke cleared, there was literally nothing bigger than a basketball on the ground. Another bomber flew over the city directly after the bombs, dropping leaflets telling them not to venture out on the road for at least two days, and that supplies would be delivered within twenty-four hours.

A twenty-six vehicle convoy appeared the next day, only to be stopped within sight of the town by national troops. The regime in power had pretty much ignored the town, having bigger battles to contend with. But when the city effectively freed itself after begging for their help for over a year, they thought it was time to move. I talked to a major, the ranking officer there.

"I'm afraid we're going to have to confiscate your vehicles. Do not worry, we will see the supplies delivered properly." He gave me a greasy smirk, and I was sure if we turned the convoy over to him it would promptly go to his troops.

"I think not, Major. These supplies are much needed and promised to this city by my boss. He does not like disappointment. So if you'll clear the road, we'll be on our way."

The man stared at aghast someone would would defy him. "Get your men out of those trucks now! There will be no more discussion. If you do not, we will remove their dead bodies one at a time."

"Wrong answer, Major. Look at your shirt." He looked down automatically, to see three different red dots covering center mass. He paled just a bit but looked stubborn. I held up a hand.

"Please, allow me to demonstrate what would happen if you continue to block our way. Remember the footage of the attempted retreat from this city by your enemy? Look at the hut on the hill."

As he glanced up, the hut seemed to evaporate, a boom rolling over the desert a few seconds later. "Perhaps this will get your attention, if that demonstration wasn't enough."

Two of the fighter drones dropped out of the sky, leaving twin trails of 20mm rounds twenty yards on each side of the convoy. "Now, I'm going to ask you politely, once more, to let us pass. You may even escort us if you like, to show the townspeople that their government cares."

It was the out he was looking for, and they quickly formed up ahead and behind us, an honor guard of sorts. We quickly located the remaining leaders of the town, consigning the trucks to them, with a warning.

"These supplies are for ALL your people, understand? No hoarding, no favoritism, or there will be no more supplies. We have watchers, so we will know if you try to use the food and medicine as a political weapon."

They agreed instantly, and I was leaving Omar and Jamal there for a few weeks, just to sure instructions were followed. The government troops immediately instructed the town to turn over all weapons, but my agents had done their jobs, and only a tenth of the weapons were turned in.

....

Two weeks later the Major declared martial law and tried to blackmail the town into giving up most of their wealth. He was assassinated twelve hours later, literally blown to bits. The Captain left in charge quickly ordered the evacuation of his troop, sending a message to command that the town was now secure and no longer needed their assistance.

We targeted another town and village in similar circumstances, dropping food and weapons in exchange for terrorist bodies. Both ventures were successful, and the regime was starting to get nervous, as well as the foreign power backing them. They stepped up bombings and raids on towns they felt were slipping out of their control, alienating the populace farther. Pretty soon the small insurrection had developed into a full scale civil war. Our group tried our best to stay out of the politics of the area, but inevitably we were drawn in.

When a bounty was announced, and it became public knowledge that my organization was paying a thousand U.S. for every confirmed ISIS kill, bodies started popping up everywhere. One village managed to capture an entire group of ISIS soldiers, thirty-five in all, and videotaped the executions, shooting the subordinates, beheading the leaders. One elder smiled into the camera, inviting ISIS back, saying the village could use the money. I sent two teams of my wolves and five truckloads of weapons to repel the imminent attack the enemy would have to mount to save face. After all, if people stopped being terrified, it defeated the purpose of being a terrorist, now didn't it?

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