Bex Before you start reading, please note that this version of the story available on this blog is the first draft two editions out of date. Hence, there are a number of errors and omissions present. For a smoother read, please purchase this book.
The village was located in one of the most remote areas of northwestern Bornu state, the poverty-stricken north-eastern most state of Nigeria which was being torn apart by the violence and bloodbath unleashed by the extremist Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
It was less than a mile from the Nigerian-Niger international border and its nearest neighbor was another remote village a clean eleven miles away on the other side of the border in the Niger Republic.
The village had a history that dated as far back as the ancient and mighty Bornu empire that conquered and ruled over most of northern Nigeria and its West African neighbors for hundreds of years, forcing the Islamic religion on so many tribes until the Fulani warriors from the west overran it and then the more powerful British colonial government arrived with their superior ‘firearms’ in the early nineteenth century to put a halt to the rapid expansions of all the Muslim empires and kingdoms of the north, eventually destroying most of them.
Five hundred years ago, at the height of the mighty Bornu Empire, the village, lying on one of the most convenient trans-Sahara trade routes as it was, had been a flourishing outpost for merchants laden with goods of slaves, natron, kola nut, cotton, ivory and ostrich feathers, heading into Chad and then Fezzan where a series of well spread out watering wells and oasis led deeper into the great Sahara Desert, connecting to North Africa, Tripoli in Libya, the cities of Egypt, and then the Mediterranean Sea itself, beyond which lay the great civilizations of Turkey and the Ottoman Empire.
Fourteen times in five hundred years, the village had been sacked, burnt to the ground and completely destroyed by enemies of the Bornu empire, six times by the terrible Bulalas from the east, three times by the Hausas from the west, twice by raiding parties of Tuaregs, the blue man on swift white camels from the north, the Tubus then arrived and, lastly, the Fulani warriors from the west. Each time the village was left a desolate, burnt-out ruin but each time it always found a way to spring back to life again like a new flower in the middle of the empty, flat, semi-arid plains.
As recently as a hundred years ago, the village had still been a flourishing outpost where traders and travelers stopped over to get supplies and water their horses and camels as they plied the ancient trade routes across the open borders between Nigeria and its landlocked neighbors, the French-speaking Niger Republic to the north, the French-speaking Chad Republic to the northeast and the French-speaking Cameroons which was beyond the great Lake Chad and directly to the southeast. But things had become so much different now. With modernization, had come cars and lorries which led to the creation of special roads and railways directly connecting the major border towns and cities in each of the four countries through legal border crossing where rude and corrupt immigration and customs officials held away. And then there were the heavily armed military border patrols that halted all free trade and movements across the borders, calling them illegal. The patrols had become increasingly vigilant and violent due to the new terrorist and economic problems besieging the region.
No one used beasts of burdens in a major way anymore and so the old trade routes which, unlike the new roads and railway that went directly in a straight line to the intended destination, actually led from one watering spot to the next as it progressed through the drought-ravaged region, had all but dried up. Although the natives could still trek freely across the open borders to visit their kinfolks in the other villages as they had done for hundreds of years before any borders came into existence, there was no business or trade, and with the absence of any roads or any form of legal border crossings within fifty miles, the village had all but dried up now too. It was just a cluster of a few old mud buildings and huts on the flat semi-arid landscape, very poor and backward, all alone and completely forgotten in its corner by the federal, state and even the local government.
The village had no basic amenities, whatever. No clear-cut roads led to it, no electricity or pipe-borne water, there were no hospitals, clinics or even a mobile communication service for miles and miles around. The only health care the villagers had access to was provided by a group of Christian missionaries who came up in a bus three or four times a year from the southwest while the only source of water was a very deep well cut into the hard earth six hundred years ago, to tap into a cool underground stream. The waterhole just outside the village only flowed with the rains that came briefly once a year.
The village had a population of over a hundred and fifty illiterate adult natives of both pure and mixed Kanuri, Shewa and Fulani extractions, but due to its ancient history and geographical position, there were traces of other distant tribes to be found among the people. The men were very few, but the women were many; most of the men married several wives and the result was many children.
The main religion of the village was, of course, Islam, but there were several Christians too, converts of the Christian missionaries that often visited the village. A big ancient tree, the only major tree for miles in every direction, was situated in the open square in the middle of the village where the water well, the old relic of a mosque and the new hall were. The vast shadow cast by the giant tree and the other lesser trees gave the area adequate protection from the terrible wrath of the sun which was a prolonged daily ordeal.
The villagers were mostly nomads by culture, and so quite a few domesticated livestock roamed about freely, fowls, rams, sheep and goats, these were the only real prized possessions most of the families could boast of. Those that could own cattle bred them carefully like it had been done for centuries and kept them together in small herds, looked after by groups of young men and naked boys who kept them away from the planted crop fields where the village grew its food. The lean, long-horned beasts moved freely around the flat countryside as they gazed on the sparse growth of grass and bushes.
Just outside the village was the only modern structure in the entire area. It was the highly secure residence of Alhaji Aminu Usman. The unpainted, barbed wire topped, high fence and solid black gates gave no real hints of immense wealth, but within was a large spacious compound with fine stone tiled floors and there sat a big ultra-modern six-bedroom bungalow with an outbuilding to the rear for servants and employees. The interior of the bungalow was lavishly furnished and the servants quarter had more luxury items than anything anyone in the village could ever boast of. There was, indeed, a very good reason the poor villagers swore by the wealth of Alhaji Aminu Usman. Walking from the village to his house was like walking from a bad life straight into paradise.
No one really knew what Alhaji Usman did for a living, it was a constant subject of speculation among the illiterate villagers, but everyone agreed that he was incredibly rich now, definitely one of the richest men in the entire world. He was also incredibly generous too. He donated gifts and foodstuffs freely to the village at every opportunity, religious festive periods, whether Christian or Muslim, were ‘free for all’ feasts that lasted for days. Alhaji Usman had been responsible for the careful renovation of the old mosque, but most importantly, he built the new hall and equipped it as a free cinema for all. Wires on long poles brought light to the village square from the huge generators in his compound which came on and stayed on anytime the Alhaji was in residence. In the daytime and particularly at nights, the village square would be lit up by strategically placed bulbs and the large flat screen television in the hall would become the center of attraction for the entire population of the village, both old and young alike. This was the only form of electricity and modern entertainment they had ever known.
Alhaji Usman was a middle-aged man of average build and sound health. He was not an indigene of the village but had lived there for nearly fifteen years. In the first year when he had come, he had given the villagers and their revered headman many gifts and then been allocated the large parcel of land just outside the village to settle upon as he wished. Alhaji Usman had quickly brought in building materials along with a large team of skilled workers, all the way from the city, to build his new house, but used local laborers, even allowed women and children to work and every family in the village made good money.
Alhaji Usman had completed the building of his wonderful house within six months and the village wasted no time in relaxing their strict laws which kept strangers from marrying and taking away their women. Alhaji Usman had been ‘invited’ by the elders as custom required, to marry from among their women and he had promptly chosen two of the most beautiful, first a childless widow, and then two years later, a young girl, marrying both according to custom. The women had given him sons and daughters now and this made him completely accepted by the villagers as one of their own.
Alhaji Usman’s choice of the widow as a first wife had, of course, baffled everyone greatly at the time because the woman was rather old and ‘faulty’ while there had been so many willing, and even more beautiful young girls available for the taking. The widow had been close to thirty years of age at the time and considered barren because aside from a stillborn child, birthed at the early stage of her previous marriage, she never conceived again for her husband in the eleven years that followed until his death the year before. A lot of people, overlooking the fact that the widow was a quiet, hardworking woman of good nature, had put down Alhaji Usman’s interest in her as purely sexual because she possessed in abundance the kind of spectacular rich figure that was so appealing to a man; she had the largest hips and buttocks of all the women in the village except her own mother. But they had all soon discovered, though, that Alhaji Usman was a very clever and remarkable man who never did anything without a very good reason. First, he had gotten the barren woman very pregnant in seven months flat, and then the other reason he had chosen her first soon became all too clear… he needed a matured woman to take charge of his house.
As the years went by, it had quickly become very clear to everyone that the big house in the village wasn’t Alhaji Usman’s only residence on earth. He was hardly ever there. His two wives and their young children, the servants and two well-armed security men, they were the ones always there in the big house and from the very first year, the first wife had started ruling over the household with the kind of wisdom and maturity that never would have been found in a young girl.
As had been the regular pattern for fifteen long years, every three months or so, Alhaji Usman would come driving up from the south in an expensive jeep. For the last three years now, it had been a big black Land Cruiser Jeep with charcoal black windows, no one could ever see through, the whole jeep always covered with dust, his driver and heavily armed bodyguard always with him. He would stay in the big house for just a week or two, then go driving off again, but this time, up north across the border into the Niger Republic. He would be gone for up to a month, and then one evening the big jeep would be seen coming over the distant hills that were the international borders. It would pick its way carefully over the rugged terrain as it covered the distance back to the village, all covered with more dust and splatters of mud, to vanish into the big compound, never to reemerge until Alhaji Usman was headed back south.
For three years now, that new jeep had been a thing of wonder to the villagers who hadn’t quite seen anything like it in real life. This jeep was bigger and better than the other ones Alhaji Usman had used in past years. It was nothing at all like the battered old Honda Jeep that was the pride of the headman’s first son who lived in the city and often came home during special holidays, that one made a hideous noise that scared away even the cattle and it sometimes had to be pushed a long distance before it would start up. This big jeep wasn’t like the merchant’s wagon either, the wagon which came twice a year when the merchant bought up all the extra grain the village grew. The big black jeep was powerful and it was always looking so new despite all the dust and mud on it. It never spoilt, hardly made any noise at all and it could go anywhere, even right across the knee-deep muddy stream that appeared in the dry river bed near the village each time the rains came. But the most fascinating part was that the big jeep had an interior that was as chilly as a cold winter-harmattan morning, and there was a television that showed American movies even as it moved on like a floating palace. The Imam who was the only one in the village to have ever taken a ride in the jeep testified endlessly to these things. He was the one who told everyone the name of the jeep and swore the Alhaji himself had told him about it.
Usually, once back from the north, Alhaji Usman rarely stayed longer than two weeks before heading on back south again, but this time he stayed longer and it was because of the fifteen-year-old Fulani beauty he had just taken as a third wife.
The girl was the daughter of the village weaver so getting her had barely cost anything at all. He had paid just ten thousand naira as bride price on her head, that was less than thirty dollars, an incredible bargain indeed considering her beauty! The girl was built exactly like he liked his women, tall and light complexioned with a curvy wide-hipped figure that was quite mature for her young age and it would certainly fill out even more as the years went by. Alhaji Usman had first seen her just a month ago, soon after he arrived from the south. His sharp hawk eyes had spotted her walking gracefully across the far side of the village square with her mother while he was on one of his rare visits to the mosque for evening prayers. Swift inquiries culminated in his taking her as a third wife a few days later, having bribed his way through most of the time-
consuming marriage rites, he wasn’t a man to waste time at all. He, however, hadn’t had the time to enjoy her properly at the time because the urgent business called and he went rushing up north across the border, leaving her in the protective custody of his watchful first wife. But he was back now, enjoying his property to the full on a regular basis and it was so sweet.
That hot afternoon, as the village lay deserted and quiet under the appalling heat of the terrible sun, the big generators at Alhaji Usman’s house could be heard grinding out power because he was in residence. His two older wives and their five children were relaxed in the cool comforts of the big air-conditioned living room, watching a satellite movie on the large wall-mounted 52-inch flat screen TV, but the Alhaji, himself was in his bedroom with the door and windows locked tight, the air-conditioning on high, keeping the air within almost cold. The fifty-three-year-old man had his fifteen-year-old new wife pinned down underneath him on the expensive king-sized bed and was making love to her with deep powerful thrusts that had the helpless girl crying quietly with pain.
This had been happening to her steadily for only two weeks now, but already she was planning to kill herself.
Due to the conveniently available electricity, all the villagers, old and young, men, women, and children, were gathered in the open hall, enjoying a new Hausa movie on the large flat screen television and the big booming speakers filled the air with digital surround sound. One of the headman’s sons played ‘DJ’ and he was as arrogant as they all came, behaving like the appliances belonged to their father instead of the village as a whole. The old headman himself and the Imam too, were there in the front row of the gathering, seated in their usual places of honor with their wives and children around them. The few villagers that were not there, were either sleeping the afternoon away in the shelter of their homes or attending to important chores.
No one was really watching for trouble from the outside world and no one expected such a thing. They hadn’t had any external troubles in the eighty years since some Salidva tribesmen from the north tried to settle on their lands and steal their women.
But, that afternoon, trouble came looking for them.
All of them.
The three vehicles came out of the east in a cloud of dust.
They came racing across the rough terrain at speed, keeping in a line, one vehicle behind the other. All three vehicles were powerful Pickup trucks and both their cabins and open backs were packed with armed men, savage-looking men in military camouflage uniforms and red or camouflage colored masks, all armed with AK-47 assault rifles, daggers, and machetes. The lead vehicle was a powerful Toyota Pickup truck with a high-caliber heavy machine gun mounted on the roof of its cabin. The second vehicle was an Isuzu pickup truck also with a mounted heavy machine gun over the roof of its cabin. Only the last vehicle was without a mounted machine gun and it was an ancient British Land Rover pickup truck with a fabricated engine that was quite as good as its body was very strong. The Land Rover marched the speed of the other two vehicles without much fuss and it only carried a slightly lesser load of armed men.
A hundred and fifty yards out from the village, the three vehicles went through the dry river bed, and then the Ford swerved sharply to the right, its tires spinning up sand and dust as it changed direction swiftly and headed directly for Alhaji Usman’s house. The Isuzu and the Land Rover increased speed, heading for the deserted village.
The headman’s sixth and youngest wife, Fatima, was a lovely slim girl of seventeen and like everyone else, she was right there in the hall with her children, watching the movie. She had been married to her sixty-four-year-old, gray-haired husband for only four years but had already given him two sons. She had always been his favorite bed warmer of all his four surviving wives, but due to her quarrelsome nature, she was constantly falling out of favor.
A week ago, she’d had it out with her superior, the headman’s third wife who was a clean thirty years older than she was with two daughters also older than her. Fatima didn’t care. She had bathed one with boiling hot water and brandished her knife at the others before her husband came running to intervene and give her a good beating. The stupid woman and her good-for-nothing daughters had it coming to them for constantly looking down on her because she was so young. But she was in her husband’s house and she would show them she wasn’t to be messed with. She would show them all that she was a butcher’s daughter, born and raised!
Her husband had banished her from his sight and bed, but it was only a matter of time before he desired her again and she would be back in her rightful place. What was eating her up right now was that due to that banishment she couldn’t sit close to her husband as usual at the honorary position up front in the hall. Her enemy, the third wife, was the one sitting on the floor by their husband while she, Fatima, had to sit far out of his sight, at the very back of the hall with all the ordinary people! This hadn’t happened before, not for this long, it was four days now and the shame was killing her inside.
Fatima had created some space for herself away from the others at the back of the hall and was sitting on the cement floor with one outstretched leg crossed over the other while her two sons played happily around her. Her younger son, a toddler, attempted to crawl quickly away and she turned to catch hold of him, that was when she saw the two vehicles speed into the square. Her sharp eyes saw the Army uniforms and the red masks the men wore, the guns and machetes they carried, and she instantly remembered all the horrible tales that had been filtering into the village about the terrible activities of Islamic fighters around the great Lake Chad to the east and also to the south of the state
“BOKO HARAM!” screamed Fatima at the top of her lungs, her sharp, high pitched voice rising easily above the din of the movie pouring out of the big loudspeakers. “BOKO HAAARRAAM!!… BOKO HAARRRAM!!!”
Everyone turned quickly to look at her, and then they looked to where she was pointing.
The two jeeps tore into the square at speed, diverging as they closed in swiftly on the hall. They came to a halt in a cloud of dust and the armed men were leaping down and moving forward even before the stunned villagers had time to react or fully understand was going on.
There were about twenty of them, young terrible looking men, armed with rifles and machetes.
Shouting and cursing in Arabic, the armed terrorists spread out swiftly to contain the villagers as they tried to scamper away in fear. Several of the terrorists opened fire on a Christian looking man and two women trying to flee with three children, cutting them all down swiftly with bullets, even the baby on the back of one of the women weren’t spared.
The terrorists kept shouting angrily and the terrified villagers, men, women, and children, bunched up tightly into groups in the hall, screaming and covering with fear. Some of the terrorists were already running around the village, checking the mud houses and straw huts for other people. Everyone was rounded up and dragged out into the square.
Once they had all the villagers gathered up together in the open hall, the terrorist leader, a hard-faced man of thirty with his red mask down around his neck like a scarf, barked out orders and his men leaped to obey.
All the men of the village, both old and young, were dragged roughly out into the middle of the square at gunpoint and made to stand closely beside each other in a long line. They were thirty-four in number, some just terrified boys. They stood, facing the terrorist leader who proceeded to give a short speech in Arabic about the evils of allowing the infidels called Christians, dwell among them and pollute the spirituality of their society. They were all now polluted themselves and thus would have to pay the ultimate price according to the holy laws… the penalty was death!
Finished with the fine speech, the terrorist leader proceeded to choose carefully from out of the men. He chose eleven healthy, able-bodied young men who he declared were going to be given the privilege of a second chance to serve Allah’s cause.
The chosen young men were marched at gunpoint over to another side of the square where they were made to observe what was about to happen as the rest of the men, the Imam and the old headman first, were made to kneel in the dust. Five of the terrorists unsheathed their razor-sharp machetes as they moved in behind the kneeling line of men and the executions began.
Each machete rose and fell skillfully in a vicious sweeping blow, five heads were hacked clean off the shoulders of five men and sent rolling into the dust. Five headless bodies toppled into the dust, sprouting fountains of bright red blood from the open stubs of their necks into the sand.
The high-pitched screams of horror from the onlooking women and children gathered up in the hall filled the air and they all began to weep loudly and uncontrollably, some with infinite grief and others pleading desperately for the lives of their husbands, brothers, and fathers.
Completely unperturbed, the executioners moved quickly on to stand behind the next five kneeling men. The machetes rose and fell again with skill and five more heads were dispatched into the dust to even louder screams of horror and pleas for mercy from the weeping women and children.
One of the kneeling men, a youth of just eighteen who hadn’t been picked because of his thin physique, was weeping profusely like several other kneeling men awaiting their turn to be beheaded. He had just seen his father beheaded ahead of him and suddenly couldn’t stand it anymore. He abruptly sprang to his feet and ran blindly towards one of the huts beside which was a path out into the plains beyond. He only made a few paces before automatic rifle fire from different directions cut him to pieces and his lifeless body dropped into the dust. One of the insurgents stepped up to the bullet-riddled corpse on the ground, drew out his machete and hacked off the head with one blow.
There would be no escape.
All twenty-five men were dispatched swiftly and soon their corpses lay twitching in the dust, sprouting up fountains of blood from the headless necks. Twenty-five heads lay all around in the dust like footballs.
Turning his attention now to the women and children gathered together in the hall at gunpoint, the terrorist leader carelessly kicked aside one of the heads in the dust with a booted foot as he went over to them. His men were already sorting them out into two groups. They were picking out all the ripe young girls and attractive women; tearing them forcibly away from their children and family and making them stand aside in a separate group.
Once they were done, their leader studied the selected group carefully. There were ninety-eight women and girls aged ten to forty, all were to his satisfaction. He turned to look at the leftovers, old women, several unattractive matrons, five heavily pregnant women and little children…. too many little children.
The terrorist leader nodded with satisfaction. They were perfect for the plan.
He barked out orders and at once his men started herding the useless group out of the hall and over to the broad base of the giant ancient tree. One man hurried up with a video recording camera and started giving them proper directives on how to arrange the group. There must be as little a show as possible of their location in the background to avoid being tracked by the Nigerian Military Intelligence, everyone knew their incredible abilities in these things.
The headman’s six daughters and two of his surviving four wives, the fifth and sixth wives, were among the chosen women held at gunpoint. With her heart beating in her throat, Fatima watched as her two infant sons, now being looked after by her worst enemy, the dried-up witch of a second wife, were gathered up with all the rest of the people at the large base of the ancient tree like cattle. They were all weeping loudly and begging for mercy, even the old women and little once. At first, the intent of the terrorists wasn’t very clear, but then Fatima saw one of them toss something into the middle of the bunch and dart back quickly, all the other terrorists darted back too.
There was a loud ear-piercing explosion, a blinding flash of bright light and the women and children were suddenly a mass of dismembered body parts, mutilated flesh, and blood. Even before the full horrors of it set into Fatima’s dazed brain, the terrorist moved forward with their machetes. There were those that hadn’t died completely yet, and their high-pitched screams of agony were terrible to hear. The machetes rose and fell with skill and the screams were cut off one by one.
Fatima saw her enemy still clutching her children in her arms even in death. Both her legs and part of her face had been blown off, and the children she still held…. half of her baby’s body had been blown off too, but the other child, her first son, he was screaming because one of his small arms was now a bloody stub of bone and torn flesh!
A machete rose and fell and child’s head was hacked off his body.
The screams tore free from Fatima’s throat, mixing with that of the other helpless women around her as it rose to ear-piercing levels.
The terrorists moved in on the screaming women and girls with hard leather horse whips. It was time to teach them the lesson of total submission and thus begin their reformation.
Completely unbothered, the terrorist leader surveyed the bloody scene before him in the open square with satisfaction, then motioned to another of his men who hurried forward with a photographic camera and began to take pictures while the man with the video recorder shifted his focus to the women and girls being brutalized.
The terrorist leader smiled to himself. By Allah, the tyrannical government and military of this wretched county would get copies of everything, he thought. They would know what it meant to oppose the movement and the will of Allah the Most High.
Over at Alhaji Usman’s house, the situation was already very bad and getting worse fast.
The Ford truck had come to a halt directly in front of the gates of the compound which were never locked in daytime hours. The fourteen well-armed terrorists with the overall commander of the detachment had gained easy access to the compound and beheaded the sleepy security man seated by the gates before he even knew what was going on. The other security man who was off duty was fast asleep in his quarters to the rear of the house.
The Alhaji’s bodyguard, alerted to the unusual sounds of gunshots in the village, and then the strange noises coming from the gates, had come quickly around the house from the back to investigate when he saw the dreaded masked terrorists within the compound.
He opened fire on them at once with his AK-47 rifle set to full automatic, instantly killing three of them bunched up together and wounding two others, then ducked hastily behind the house as the rest of the insurgents returned fire at him.
The Islamic State-trained terrorists who had already dedicated their very lives to the cause, thereby forfeiting it in the same gesture, scattered and surged forward without fear. The next minute, when the bodyguard stepped out again to shoot, a volley of automatic rifle fire from multiple directions blew him away and his lifeless corpse hit the floor three feet from where he had been standing.
Summoned by the sounds of gunshots within his own compound and the terrified screams of his family, Alhaji Usman climbed off his new wife fast, put on a house robe and hurried out of his bedroom. He was in the living room in seconds, hurried over to a window to peep out and a stray bullet hit him full in the face, taking away a section of his head as it exited from behind. Alhaji Usman was dead right on his feet and his lifeless body topped straight backward like a cut tree as it fell, hitting the tiled floor with a heavy thud.
His horrified family rushed over to him at once. The women and their children were kneeling over the corpse, screaming and weeping as the terrorists burst in through the front door.
All the Alhaji’s attractive three wives and their five children, the male servants and the other employees, they were all taken outside to one corner of the big compound and swiftly beheaded one after another. All the bodies, including the Alhaji’s own, were arranged together with the detached heads close by and photographed with a camera phone. The pictures were then emailed to a specific address as pre-arranged.
Only three female servants were spared and that was because they were very attractive and well-kept Shuwa Arab girls, two of them sisters of about fifteen and sixteen years old respectively. They would do for the commander’s new bed.
This was a contract killing and it was why they were there in the first place. The first part of their payment had already been made beforehand and these photos would trigger the second part. They would have to find the trigger for the final part and it was right in the house.
As the terrorists ransacked the entire house, the Isuzu pickup truck drove up from the village and parked by the Ford in front of the gates of the compound. The leader of the other band that had taken the village had come to report to the commander and he had only two men with him, the rest were securing the village.
Mohammed was stunned by all the riches and luxury he saw arrayed in the house. He found his superior officer sitting alone in a huge armchair in the Alhaji’s huge bedroom, toying with a beautiful jeweled dagger he had never before seen him with. From the way the commander was sitting, so still and unmoving, staring fixedly ahead of him, it was clear his sharp mind was calculating something. The man merely glanced at him as he saluted and began to give his report of mission accomplished in fluent Arabic.
When he finished with the report the commander still sat perfectly still and unmoving as if he hadn’t heard a word but Mohammed knew different. His commander was a tall, slender man of thirty-five who had been a peaceful trader around the Lake Chad before the rampaging Nigerian Army killed his brother and burnt down his home while his wife and two children hid inside. He was now a man on a personal revenge mission and his intelligent calculating mind, ruthless nature and powerful lean physique made him a highly dangerous man to go up against. One moment he would be so cool and the next, a raging bloodthirsty beast that could tear a man’s throat right out of his neck with his bare fingers. Mohammad would never forget the day he saw him do that to a captured Nigerian Army officer even as he looked the man calmly in the eyes!
Yes, there was a very good reason why this man was a close confidant and honored bodyguard of the ‘Wali’, the supreme leader Abubakar Shekau. He was also one of the most feared men in the entire holy army.
Mohammed stood patiently, watching his commander and waiting.
After a few moments, the man spoke in that calm, quiet voice of his.
“It seems to me that these new friends of Abdul’s really know what they’re about,” began his commander in fluent Arabic. “Every piece of information they gave us about this place has checked out accurately. From the unusual wealth of this man and his house to the complete isolation of this village, the good supply of livestock and fine women, they were perfectly correct about everything.”
“Yes,” agreed Mohammed in an awed voice. Like his father and his father’s father before him, Mohammed had been a poor fisherman who lived in a wooden shack on Lake Chad until he had the good sense to join the holy Army early. Modern luxury was like a whole new world to him and he was already looking forward to spending time in it, the commander was one of the very few top men in the holy Army who tolerated modern technology and luxury to some extent, they had their uses but not pure western education, that one was strictly against their doctrine. “This village will definitely make a perfect base for us. No one will ever come looking for us this far out and we can strike freely into the neighboring states.”
“Yes,” agreed his commander thoughtfully. “But a lot of things still bother me in this matter. First of all, what is the origin of so much wealth out here in the middle of nowhere where only extreme poverty exists? Secondly, what does this man go across the border to do every three months to four months and why does it take him a whole month to do it? How does he communicate with the outside world from here? Why does he carry an impregnable steel briefcase around like they say he does and why do they want it? What could that briefcase possibly contain to make them offer a whole one million dollars to get it? Why did they want this man and his entire family dead, so badly?”
Mohammed shrugged. “Money and power of some kind, it’s the only thing I can think of?”
“Yes, it’s all I can think of as well” agreed his commander thoughtfully then shook his head regretfully. “So unfortunate the man is already dead and I can’t ask him any of these questions” He nodded at Mohammed. Take charge here at once, I want that briefcase found as quickly as possible. If indeed we can’t even break it open like they claim then we will sell it to them and be done with it, the price they are offering is incredibly good anyway and I hate mysteries. I also want you people to search carefully for signs of a hidden safe, very rich people like this tend to have such secret places in their homes where they hide away huge sums of money and items of high value.”
Mohammed nodded. “We will look for the safe very carefully, but the briefcase shouldn’t be hard to find.”
“The men haven’t found it yet and they’ve searched almost everywhere in this place by now. Aside from that drawer full of worthless newspapers and a ridiculous one hundred thousand naira, there has been nothing so far,” the commander gestured with the jeweled dagger across at a furniture chest of drawers. The drawers were all pulled open. “That briefcase is around here somewhere and possibly a lot of money as well. Our brave brothers are desperately in need of weapons, vehicles, and food in their holy fight against the oppressors. We need the money.”
Mohammed nodded once. “We will find it.”
He saluted, turned on his heels and left.
The search took them many long hours that stretched into frustrating days.
Eventually, the three lovely Shuwa Arab girls, the only survivors of the house having been reserved for the new beds of the senior commander, were tortured repeatedly for information. But they all kept saying the same thing.
The steel briefcase did indeed exist. The master had returned home with it as usual and had carried it himself, straight into his special room like he always did. No one ever went into that special room. It was forbidden to all except the first wife. She alone, and not the servants, was responsible for cleaning that room and she did that only when the master was around because the iron door was always kept locked and the master alone had the key.
The terrorists discovered quickly enough that the special room was actually a small fortress. They had to use explosives to blow open the iron door and found a good-sized windowless room that was furnished like a modern office, complete with telephones and a desktop computer, all of it hooked up to a mini communications satellite dish hidden on the roof of the house. They discovered too that the white-painted walls of the room, the beautiful marble floor, and even the lovely ceiling were actually solid concrete with steel bars laid deep in them
They searched and searched but never found anything. There was no sign of a briefcase or any hidden safe anywhere.
To Be Continued…