SQUASH – Episode 7: The Bandit Paradise and The Double-Cross General

The conditions were better here in the wilderness than at the Islamic school. We ate wild game, drank fresh cow milk, ate choice food, and had access to kidnapped women.

Danlami came often. He had his private helicopter pad. Each time he comes for a check-up on the Mansions, he is welcomed like a king.

As a field marshal for the bandit military, he had the highest rank among the outlaws of the Sahara.

The government knew him as a retired army general but the bandits called him the messiah of the Sahara.

Just as he promised, he came to visit. He was bearing gifts from Saudi. His love for knives was developed thirty years ago in the army. It is rumored that his pocket knife saved his life from certain death.

When Lieutenant Colonel Danlami was on tour of the North, to see the locations where the army had control of, he never knew he was walking into a trap.

There had been underground rivalries within the army and it was a known fact that top-rank military men could be assassinated by their peers.

It is always a kill-or-be-killed scenario within the army. It’s an unending game for power and control.

As he sat across from his wide desk within the officers’ mess, the army mailman brought him a letter from the Secretary to the Federal Government.

He took a glance at the mailman as he collected the letter. He saw the seal on it and knew to open it as letters of this kind must be treated as a top priority.

He carefully tore the seal open and peeped into the envelope as though it contained a letter bomb. Every high-ranked military man is on high alert at the moment. General Koboko was assassinated with a letter bomb.

There had been training from experts within the army focusing on detecting threats of such nature and handling the situation if the need ever arose.

He gently brought out the neatly wrapped letter from the envelope, just as they were trained to do.

He glanced at the mailman who was still standing at attention. He unwrapped it and quickly glanced through it to find the sender’s name.

It was truly from the Secretary to the Federal Government. He recognized the signature and stamp associated with that office.

There was a request for him to check the army’s in combating insurgency, provide tactical support where necessary, and report his findings back to the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government.

This was his first official assignment that required leaving his comfort zone in Lagos to the northern part of the country.

He called for his battalion to assemble and prepare for the North campaign. Little did he know that they would be ambushed in the far north.

The military likes to move at night in convoys. They were ready that night and moved at a stable speed of 60km per hour through Lagos, and as they hit the outskirts of Lagos, they switched up to a constant speed of 160km per hour.

There were 10 army-branded Mercedes trucks with 100 men in each. This was the 412 combat arms Battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel Danlami.

Lieutenant Colonel Danlami was in one of the trucks that rode at dangerous speeds at the front. In his truck was a young 22-year-old radio communications expert soldier. He was fondly called Igbo by his mates. His real first name was Igbokwe.

It was rumored that Igbo knew geolocations by heart and could order an airstrike within 2cm accuracy to the point he wanted hellfire to rain.

Igbo was always close to Lieutenant Colonel Danlami on every mission.

On this mission, Lieutenant Colonel Danlami asked Igbo to keep the communications line with the Air Force open. A drone hovered some 5000 feet in the skies, ready to rain down hellfire missiles on request. This mission was sanctioned from a high power in the country and all their war technology was at play.

Down on the ground, the soldiers with Lieutenant Colonel Danlami on the mission were the best of the best of the country, who have carried out several missions in the Sahara and come back successful with little to no casualties.

The sun was already setting as they closed in on the Chad border.

The military trucks zoomed through the desert road while leaving dust clouds in their wake, as they neared the Chad border checkpoint, there was a loud deafening bang, followed by successive explosions.

They had driven into a minefield at breakneck speeds and all ten trucks overturned and skidded into more mines. The explosions mimicked the continuous barrage of fireworks on Christmas.

The mines were laid on the road strategically for the military trucks. When they had ceased to explode, the Bandits of the Sahara moved in to clean up what was left of the military men.

While trying to escape from the trucks, a few soldiers crawled out to the road. The ones that had only small scratches carried the ones that were badly wounded towards the side of the truck, which they thought was safe.

The Bandits were on every side so nowhere was safe. They opened fire on every military man who was still breathing or moving.

Lieutenant Colonel Danlami and Igbo were close to each other. The communication line to the Air Force was now making a static noise. Igbo kept trying to call in for backup and gave coordinates surrounding their location but no response came from the drone and hellfire did not rain.

A bullet caught Igbo on the torso as he made a small body movement. A bandit sniper had hit him from 500 meters.

Lieutenant Colonel Danlami’s batallion was low on ammo and two-thirds of his men were dead. Igbo was bleeding profusely as he had been shot in the torso. He held the phone tightly with shaky hands as life seeped out of him.

The battle raged on. He did not start this northern war between bandits and the military, nor did he know how to end it. The last thought on his mind, while he faded, was that someone in the high echelons of the country must have asked the Air Force to stand down.

Igbo gave his last breath to the wind as Lieutenant Colonel Danlami took the phone from his grasp. Mayday Mayday. We need air support. Battallion 412, this is Lieutenant Colonel Danlami. We are taking heavy fire, I am the only man who can still pull a trigger, 985 men are dead and 15 are mortally wounded. Air support never responded.

While he was still on the radio, a grenade fell very close to where he was taking cover. The grenade exploded and shrapnel flew in different directions. One of the shrapnel caught him on his torso. He felt the heat from the metal burning through his flesh. He groaned in pain.

He put pressure on the altercation to slow the bleeding. If he doesn’t remove the shrapnel, he will certainly go into shock from severe bleeding and die.

He was lucky to be lying flat on the ground at the time. He turned and lay on his side.

The enemies had closed in on him. He took out the pocket knife, flipped out the blade, and put the sharp end into his torso. He felt the blade touch the metal of the shrapnel inside his torso.

He rotated the knife and made a rotating movement with the knife. He moaned in pain as the shrapnel fell out.

He was losing consciousness as one of the bandits called out to another to come check out what he found.

The other bandit came close, and he quickly recognized the man on the ground.

Do you know who this is?

Yes. This is Lieutenant Colonel Danlami.

We can make a lot of money from the government as ransom with this high-ranking army man.

Or we could even exchange him for Muhammed whom the army has had in their custody since last month.

They kept on having their small talk.

Little did they know that Lieutenant Colonel Danlami would soon be radicalized and be the highest-ranking bandit of the Sahara in a few months.

As Lieutenant Colonel Danlami became unconscious, they lifted him and placed him at the back of their light truck carelessly. The bleeding had stopped and his heart was beating slowly.

The mission was done!

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