The Last Amazon Warrior Women Book 1 – Merchants of Death – Chapter 6 (General Ayonda)
TWENTY-FOUR HOURS LATER
The meeting was hurriedly arranged and it took place on the top floor of the ultra-modern ten-story headquarters of the Nigerian Military Intelligence.
The soundproof VIP conference room was completely empty except for two men sitting quietly at the large glass-topped conference table in the middle, waiting patiently. The table could sit eleven and so there were several empty chairs left. The chair at the head of the table was empty and the two men occupied the chairs on either side of it. One man was an army colonel in full uniform, a well-built black man in his late forties, and sitting across the table from him was a blond white man of athletic build, also in his late forties, dressed in a smart dark suit with a white shirt and black tie,
The two men didn’t wait long.
In a moment, the big double doors leading into the room were thrown open by two armed military personnel who stood stiffly to attention and saluted as the head of the Nigerian Military Intelligence, Major-General Samuel Ayonda, strode briskly in alone and headed straight for the conference table in the middle of the large room.
The two military personnel left the room quickly, closing the doors again after them.
The army colonel was already on his feet, saluting his boss and the white man stood too.
General Ayonda strode to the chair at the head of the table, a distinguished figure of a man in his fifties, dressed in the full uniform of a two-star army general. His intelligent black face bore an easy-going expression that masked the ruthless no-nonsense character underneath. He acknowledged the saluting colonel with a nod, then turned to the white man and held out his hand.
“Mr. Powell,” he said in acknowledgment.
“Good morning, General,” replied Mr. Powell respectfully, accepting the proffered hand.
The two men shook hands.
“Morning, please be seated,” said the general with a wave of his hand.
The two men sat down and the colonel did too.
“So tell me, Mr. Powell,” began General Samuel Ayonda, sitting back in the high-backed leather chair at the head of the table and focusing his attention on the American now sitting in the chair to his left. “Why would the political officer of the US embassy request an urgent private meeting with me and then send the cultural officer to attend it?”
“I assure you, General, that the issue at hand is a very delicate one that I am best qualified to handle,” replied Mr. Powell.
General Ayonda seemed to give the matter some thought, then nodded and gestured at the colonel. “You’ve already met my chief of operations, Colonel Abdul Musa.”
“Indeed, I have,” Mr. Powell nodded at the colonel in acknowledgment.
“Very well, then. Proceed.”
“Thank you, General,” replied Mr. Powell, sitting up in his chair. “Ten days ago, a group of highly trained Islamic State terrorists entered Libya by sea at Bo Traba, it’s a small city just east of Benghazi. The city is firmly in the hands of the HOR government faction and their loyalists, the Libyan Liberation Army, have that entire stretch of the Mediterranean coast under lock and key. Three days later, the same group of terrorists was sighted in Al-Jawf, the last Libyan settlement of import deep in the Sahara Desert to the south before the Empty Quarter. The interesting thing to note here is that Al-Jawf is not in the hands of the HOR government, but the GNC government, and their longtime allies, the Libyan Patriots Militia group, as you know, have been strong there for years.” Mr. Powell paused to let that point sink in.
The Empty Quarter is the name given to the hottest and driest part of the mighty Sahara Desert that covers the entire northern section of the African continent and much of it lies in southern Libya and northern Chad. Nothing can survive or live in the Empty Quarter, neither plant or animal can; no human being can cross it by foot or even directly by vehicle, so many had died trying. The only way across the Empty Quarter is by ancient secret trade routes that connect a handful of small Bedouin camps that cling to very deep underground water wells like they have done for thousands of years. Only a few natives in the region know these secret routes and they make a lucrative living guiding smugglers and other criminals through.
“Islamic State is secretly interacting with both sides,” said Colonel Musa, voicing the thoughts of all.
“Exactly,” agreed Mr. Powell. “The terrorists left Al-Jawf in two heavy-duty trucks five days ago and entered the Empty Quarter on their way across the Sahara Desert to the West African region. Their destination, the Chad Republic, a small settlement of some kind on the western border with the Cameroons. We think it’s a village but it’s not on any of the local maps.”
Mr. Powell opened the black leather folder on the table before him, took out some large sized photos and passed them over to the other two men
“Those are satellite photos of the trucks heading across the desert. Once out of the Empty Quarter on the Chadian side of the border, they kept to isolated routes all the way across the country, arriving at that village at about 7 p.m. yesterday.”
The general and the colonel studied the photos in their hands as they listened. They were sitting bolt upright now.
“We believe the terrorists were at that village for a very good reason, but we don’t know what. All we know is that they stayed in the village till nightfall then went completely missing. We’ve not been able to find any traces of them anywhere on either side of that border and we’ve looked well.”
“They won’t be on the Chadian side, there’s nothing for them there, they can’t even hide properly in that region,” said Colonel Musa with a shake of his head. “They must have crossed directly into Northern Cameroon and taken cover in the forested hills where your satellite can’t look. The safe heavens of the Boko Haram hideouts in the Northern Cameroonian Mountains are definitely their final destination.”
“Odd crossing point, though,” remarked General Ayonda, he looked at Mr. Powell. “Did you people determine what they were carrying in the trucks?”
Mr. Powell shook his head. “No, but we can rightly assume that this is the largest shipment of weapons to the Boko Haram terrorist sect till date and the fact that a group of highly trained Islamic State fighters is delivering it personally to their doorstep is very troubling.”
There was silence in the room as the two Nigerian Intelligence officers stared at the American, digesting the information.
Colonel Musa shook his head, frowning. “You’re not really a cultural officer, are you?”
“He should be their resident spy,” said General Ayonda. “CIA.”
“What I am or not is of no consequence, sirs,” said Mr. Powell firmly, passing over another set of photos to them. “The question is, why is Islamic State suddenly making friends with everyone and delivering weapons directly to a terrorist group that even they classify as uncivilized, but more importantly, why did they send their best squad to do it? The man in those photos is Omar Nassar, ex-Syrian Special forces, Russian trained. He’s an extremely dangerous mass murder who runs some of the most important errands for the top chiefs of Islamic State both within and outside the Middle East, a position that has seen him get on the most wanted list of the intelligence agencies of five different western countries including ours. He is the leader of the group delivering these new weapons and his regular team is made up of men like himself, highly trained ex-military men with the worst criminal records.”
“And now they are at our doorstep, but not quite in our territory,” pointed out General Ayonda quickly. “Shouldn’t you be talking to the Cameroonians?”
“We don’t do business with the Cameroonians.”
“But your French allies do and they could have gotten you a sit down with my Cameroonian opposite number.”
“We prefer a hands-on approach on this mission, General, and we certainly can’t afford failures. Your men are better trained and a lot more dedicated to the fight against terrorism in this region than the forces of Cameroon, Niger and Chad put together.” Mr. Powell nodded once. “We’ll rather do business directly with you, sir.”
“Very well, Mr. Powell, What do you people have in mind?”
“We want you to go after the Arabs and we want you to do so with your very best men,” said Mr. Powell readily.
General Ayonda stared at the American for a moment, then sat forward in his chair as he began to speak.
“Mr. Powell, the Northern Cameroonian Mountains are among the most remote, rugged, unexplored and naturally dangerous places on the African continent and the heavy presence of those terrorists in there makes it extremely dangerous, to say the least. Their international headquarters is there, their ammo dump, training bases, food storage bases; all their most important strongholds are hidden away in those mountains and the few passageways inside are so heavily guarded, they’re all death traps. We can’t even bomb the place by air because it is literally impossible to locate anything in thousands of square miles of heavily forested mountains and deep valleys that won’t even let a bloody helicopter land without crashing, that’s if they don’t blow it out of the sky first. The Cameroonians who own the place won’t even go near there. With all your sophisticated satellites and UAVs, you people can’t even find two big trucks moving across the hilly countryside outside those mountains and you want me to send all my best men right in there? Perhaps I should give them the order to commit suicide right now, today, that would be faster and cheaper.”
Mr. Powell took a deep breath and let it out. “General, I assure you that we have given this matter some very deep thought. Your Green Berets are among the best fighting men on this continent and your new KM class agents are even better, they were trained by the US SEALs, remember? Their training definition is ‘mission impossible’ meaning they’re the best in every situation and terrain, you can’t find better anywhere in the world. It won’t be suicide if you sent a small team of your best Green Berets with the KM class agents as leaders. Furthermore, I don’t think you fully appreciate the delicate position in which your country now finds itself. You have the second deadliest terrorist group in the world already holed up within your borders and an elite group of even worst terrorists has brought them gifts of a kind we do not know. Our people are not completely sure yet, but we have reason to believe that those trucks contain crates of the Russian SR-2 multipurpose missiles and launchers that were stolen from a Russian armory in Syria two months ago. It will take the uncivilized Boko Haram terrorists at least three months to master and deploy such sophisticated weapons system and you don’t want that happening. Send your people in to track down those missiles and destroy them before they are put to any use, we will provide all the necessary tactical assistance and equipment required directly. All we want is Omar Nassar alive.”
“Do you people even have the slightest idea of what part of those mountains the Islamic State contingent is headed,” asked General Ayonda.
“No, General, we do not. Your men will have to start the search at their last known location on the Chadian border and work their way in. They will have a better chance of tracking down the trucks and the Arabs from there regardless of the terrain.”
The room was quiet for a moment as General Ayonda thought the matter over quickly and then he spoke.
“We’ll have to bring the Cameroonians and Chadians into the picture, most of the operation will be carried out in their territory.”
“The Cameroonians, maybe, but I strongly advice against the Chadians,” Mr. Powell shrugged. “That’s unless you want to take the risk of Boko Haram learning of every move you make in advance through their spies in high and low places within the Chadian government.”
“The Chadians are also in league with the Russians and you don’t want the Russians knowing about your business even when it involves their own missile and is being conducted right under their nose,” said the general with a nod. “That’s why you broke your cover at the US embassy and came here talking to me nicely and very quietly.”
“Perhaps, but the fact remains that your organization gets to claim all the credit from this mission, and there’s a lot to be claimed,” Mr. Powell gestured expansively with his hands.
“For example, based on the level of co-operation between your agency and mine, you’ll find that the US government will change its position on not selling certain military hardware to your country.”
“You people have that kind of influence with your State Department?” asked Colonel Musa in surprise.
Mr. Powell shrugged. “Officially, no. Unofficially, we write the rules and guidelines.”
General Samuel Ayonda stared at the American for several moments as he thought the matter over carefully. He finally made up his mind.
“This mission could turn out to be a very long and demanding one, not to talk about the financial costs. I cannot afford to have you people pull out at any point before the end of it or withhold resources even temporally in any way like you did with the Malians against the Tuareg rebels. If you people do, I will not be listening to any future proposal as long as I run this agency and have influence over decisions made by the Minister of Defense.”
Mr. Powell’s expression didn’t change. “I see you’re very well informed, General,”
“I try to please,” replied General Ayonda evenly.
Mr. Powell smiled. “You will not find us lacking in any way on this mission, sir. In fact, you will find that we are already heavily invested. It may interest you to know that we have been monitoring the activities of Mr. Omar Nassar very closely for the past year, and as of a month ago, placed a bounty of five million dollars on him. We want him and we want him very much alive. The offer was only open to members of the American and European Intelligence communities but accepting this mission and agreeing to cooperate completely with us means that your agency and employees automatically become eligible to claim the money.”
General Ayonda nodded. “Very well, Mr. Powell. We will start the ball rolling immediately. Have you any suggestions as a code name for the operation?”
“I think that lies within your territory, General. We will be happy with whatever you chose to name it.”
General Ayonda thought a moment, then nodded again.
“The operation will be codenamed ‘Cat Dance’,” he declared, nodding. “Operation Cat Dance. It is high time we did some serious dancing in those troublesome parts.”
The American and the colonel both nodded in agreement.
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