12/30/2002

The losing of Man

Background: Like I mentioned previously, I was one of those fighting in Ivory Coast for the government against the secondary rebels. I got shot, and was shipped back to the country I am now in. I left with two assistants, Jamal and Yusuf. However, Jamal went back to fight, leaving me with Yusuf. The town we were fighting for was called Man, and when I left, the town had not yet been captured. However, it was captured a few days later. When Jamal went back, he went to that town with the rest of the company. And then, the fighting restarted, the town was lost, and about 10 of our men died. I didn't know what happened, I just read this in the news, and I've been trying to find out what was wrong. I phoned, and they told me that Jamal was in hospital. So I went over to South Africa for a two day trip, and he told me what happened. This is the second hand account.

When Jamal arrived, he got assigned a Toyota 'Taliban', and drove to Man with 4 other government soldiers. Jamal is a black American, and I have never seen anyone so racist about Africans. He fucking hates Africans. Everytime we fight with government troops, he is constantly complaining about how ignorant, useless and untrustworthy they are. Hence, he hated that 4 hour trip, and by the time they arrived, he was quarelling loudly with the government troops. Out of spite, I think, they told him to join the men that were occupying the town itself (about 30 men), and not stay in the camp on the outskirts.

So Jamal drove into the deserted town, with the occasional frightened person hanging around in front of their door. He drove to the control post, a 5 story building (the highest in the town), and joined the other troopers (20 mercs, 10 gov troops).

They stayed there for a few days, without incident, and the townsfolk started trickling in slowly, and the town seemed to be returning to normal. Unfortunately for the homecomers, everybody who came back was forced to dispose of corpses for a number of hours before being allowed to go home. You don't expect us to do that, do you? We are fighters, not garbage disposal.

Our mercs have become lazy motherfuckers. They are in the middle of a fucking warzone, and they post just two men to guard a town at night? And those men are smoking fags? Well, I understand it somewhat - we were fighting a rabble of armed civilians, and not soldiers. This mission was for us childs play. A small number of well trained soldiers, with the artillery we had, and with a nice mix of strategists, trained interrogators (like myself), heavy gun specialists can usually deal with a large army of not properly trained troops. But things are not always the way they seem.

Around 2am, heavy guns started firing. All the soldiers woke up, grabbed their guns, and looked outside. Someone lit a torch, and immediately, the windows were shattered with gunfire. A bullet richcoteted off some metal on the wall, and gave someone a flesh wound. We had searchlights on the roof, but they were not on. It turned out that one of the idiots on the roof had been shot dead, and the other was bleeding to death. The rebels had shot at their cigarrete lights.

What we found out later is that some liberian trained militia had joined the rebels. And these militia have been fighting for years, and they were good. They were about 50, but they were backed up by a number of local troops. Our men were trapped in this buildiing, with the rebels standing outside with at least two machine guns, and a good number of automatic rifles. We had another group in two other houses at the other ends of the town, and Jamal and his group soon heard the firing as they were driven back by other rebel troops.

In the meantime, Jamal and his group were lying on the floor. The officer commanded the men to spread out in the house, and to start attacking from different windows. Jama was ordered to take over the halogen searchlights on the roof, and point them downwards. These lights are heavy, and cannot be moved, but they are bullet proof. They were not sure however, if the caliber of machine gun could penetrate the light's bullet proof glass. Jamal was ordered upstairs, and told to wait till the guns had been destroyed before switching it on. He crawled out of the room, and made his way dowstairs. Some men were posted to cover the frontdoor from the starwell. Jamal went up and waited.

Another soldier I know, a german with a harelip, Stefan, threw a timed flare from a window into the street. As soon as they started shooting, our men opened fire with a chinese constructed custom gun we have that shoots small explode-on-impact grenades. One gun was destroyed, and the person who was handling it was impaled on the barrel. A horrible sight, according to Jamal. Then, the flare went out, and the shooting stopped. Stefan shot a few more flares from other windows, but there was no replying fire. Jamal called for backup, and they primed from the roof. The halogen searchlight was switched on, and the street was visble again. There were no rebels to be seen.

In the meantime, someone was burning tires in the streets. I don't have any frickin idea why Africans always burn tires whenever anything happens. Are there so many tires that they can't dispose off? And do they wait specially for conflicts, and then decide, yoohoo, lets grab this oportunity to dispose of our tires! I always think that when I see burning tires in the streets during a fight.

Our men waited for 15 minutes, and nothing happened. The officer set priority to escaping alive, since it didn't seem like they would be able to drive the rebels out of the town. But the group was about 2 KM from the base camp, and they were not sure what was happening at the other ends of town, and in base camp. They all got commands to prepare to enter the trucks, and fire-and-drive their way out of the town.

And then, boom, a mortar landed on the roof, blew off the search light, killed one of the men Jamal was with, knocked the other one off the roof, and jamal was hit in the face by some flying object. The roof caught fire, and Jamal was barely able to make it down the stairs. A portion of the cement roof had collapsed in, and some of the top floor rooms were on fire. Another mortar landed on the roof. Then another hit a truck. A few others fell on the road and compound. Immediately, the rebels stormed out from some nearby houses, shooting at all the windows, and carry burning sticks. They flung the sticks into the house, and tried to burst in through the front door. Luckily, the two men there were able to keep them off, and the other men started firing from the windows again, and drove off the attack.

At that moment, the officer told them to start escaping. 3 men rush out to a truck, under cover from the men at the windows, started it and drove to the door. Then that truck was hit by some explosive device, and caught fire. One of the men made it out, and ran back into the house. The rebels finally raised enough firepower to drive our men from the windows.

Our men were in trouble. The liberian soldiers were good, and they had good firepower and weapons. They also had men much in excess of our men.

Jamal went down to the officer, and proposed a scattered retreat. The officer gave permission. Then Jamal went and told the governement soldiers that they had received radio that our men had almost arrived, and that we were to hold the house for about 15 more minutes, and then we were safe. The government soldiers were utterly relieved, since they were sure they would die. The house was burning, and people outside were waiting to shoot everyone who came out. Jamal asked them to cover the street, and not to let anyone show his face.

Then he met the other mercs, and gave them the order for the disorganized retreat. Jamal, the officer, and two other mercs went to a side window in the fourth floor, and chose that way to make their escape. Stefan went with the others, and decided to fight their way over the back door out.

The 5 story building Jamal was in had a concrete roof. The building beside was 3 stories high, and had a zinc roof. Thus, it was not possible to directly walk across the roof. However, as builders will tell you, zinc roofs have got wooden beams holding them. You can know where the wooden bean is by the nails on the roof. Our men are trained for such excersises, and they actually did this stunt. The jumped from the fourth floor window, unto this zinc roof, and landed on the wooden beams, then ran quickly across the roof, taking care to tread on the wood. They jumped, and ran across, with the roof noise masked by the gunshots from the front, and dropped from the 3rd floor to the ground. From there, they ran across the small compound, crouched behind the small hibiscus bushes. They didn't enter a truck, but simply ran on the open road, pistols drawn.

They saw someone in the street and shot him. He was a civilian, but hey, if you live in a glass house, don't throw stones. They ran for a few hudred meters, and then reached a largish highway, which luckily had tiger grass growing by the side. The ran crouched, till the were about 100 meters from a rebel roadblock. The rebels had these small kerosine lamps on the roadside, stupidly, and they could be seen.

For covert operations, you really shouldn't mess with our mercs. They crawled up to the post in the grass, came out, and shot 5 men with pistols. The rest of the men didn't bother trying to fight back, they simply scramed. Jamal and the others continued running, and as they went around a bend, someone shot at them. They backed up, and the officer bumped into another man, and he fell, stumbled across something, and landed in a burning tire. Rubber burns are not nice burns, and he got his arm burnt badly. The group waited a bit, then peered around the corner.


And luckily for them, it was their own men standing there. They were now in radio range, so were able to radio for them to halt fire. Then they walked over to safety.

All the government soldiers in the house were killed. The other group of mercs made it back over some backstreets, but lost some of the group. Jamal and the burnt arm man were taken to hospital, and then Jamal was sent back to SA because of some eye complications. He is still there, but seems to be doing quite well.

A dramatic event, but a humiliating loss for our men. That is one of the biggest men losses in West Africa, and may cause us to lose our contract.

12/09/2002

Park guarding in Kenya

As regular training excercises, we were often sent in pairs to join the park wardens in Kenya to battle the poachers. I've made this trip about 5 times. Usually, nothing happens, as we hardly ever meet any poachers. But once, one of the most exciting event of my life happened there.

I was walking with Tony, pictured here



and a single Kenyan park warden. We were following boot marks in the ground, trying to see if we would come across anybody who was not allowed to be there. About 20 kilometers from the park borders, the foot steps veered off into the scrub. We parked our jeep, and followed the steps.

I and Tony were armed with semi-automatics, and the park warden was armed with a hunting rifle. The area we were walking in was badly eroded, and there were gullys everywhere. Because of the high grass, one hardly saw the gullys till you were about 2 meters from them. However, the grass allowed us to follow the pathways of the people who had walked there previously easily.

We walked for about two kilometers, and then saw a dead Elephant lying on the ground. A pack of lions was lying around it, and one of the males was chewing on some meat. We were surprised, because the Elephant still had its tusks on, yet we knew that it must have been killed by humans, since Lions don't kill Elephants usually. We wondered what had happened. It seemed to me that it would one of those mysterious stories where you never knew exactly what happened.

Then Tony turned pale and pointed at the meat the lion was eating. I looked in the direction, and I saw that it wasn't a part of the Elephant it was eating, it was a man! The Lion had killed a poacher, and was eating it.

The warden immediately started trembling, and crossed himself. "Mad Lion", he said, and gestured that we should get out of there immediately. As we turned to go, the Lion raised its head and looked at us. It stood up, completely still, watching us, and then started moving slowly in our direction. The warden started wimpering, and burst into a sprint. We joined in, though it seemed futile to want to outrun a Lion. Then, Tony veered off to the left, and I followed suit.

Tony had seen a somewhat deep gully, and he ran towards that. We both ran there, dropped in, and started running down the gully, hoping to find an overhang where we could defend ourselves from the lion from only one side. Tony ran ahead of me, turned a corner, and I heard a single shot. I saw him stumble and fall, but I didn't see who had shot him. I stopped and held my rifle in position, pointing towards the corner.

And a heavy blow hit me from above as the Lion swapped with its paw at my head. I fell to the ground, and pointed my gun at the sky above me where the Lion was, and fired a burst wildly. The Lion was not hit, but moved out of view. A series of gunshuts sounded from above, and the Lion came crashing down into the gully with me, blood splashing wildly from its body. It fell in front of Tony, and I sprang back, firing wildly from the hip. I hit it again, and it disappeared around the corner.

I forgot that there was a belligerent there, but chased after the animal to finish it off. As I turned the corner, I saw a man being mauled by the wounded animal, and a boy and another man running off down the gully. I started firing wildly, unfortunately hitting both the poacher and the lion. They both died.

I climbed back up, bleeding from the clawmarks in my head, and saw the game warden a short distance away, frantically reloading his rifle. I signaled that the animal was dead, and the visibly shaken man walked over to me.

We called for backup, and sat there in the hot sun drinking from a small bottle of distilled palm wine till the heavy duty Jeep arrived to take us home. Tony had died on the spot, and we didn't bother going after the other poachers who had run off. Hell, I actually felt sorry for them.

12/07/2002

Executive Outcomes and the mercenary life

Many people wonder, how exactly do mercenaries live? The image they have in their head is of a bunch of half-wild criminals and thugs dressed in colourful disarray, and armed like Rambo in First Blood II.

Actually, the reality is very different. Mercenary armies are mostly legal. They also often pay higher than normal armies, so we get really talented professionals applying. Training is important and mandatory, but one has a lot more free time than if one were in a traditional army.

In my first SA stint, I was posted with Executive Outcomes, a private South African mercenary army. Let me describe briefly how it looks like.

The base I lived at was in a South Africa ranch in the middle of about 10 kilometers of wildland. The ranch had a large number of small bungalows, and each bungalow had 16 inhabitants : 7 footsoldiers each in two rooms, and a sergeant and his aide in the other room. Meals were doled out at a central location, but one could eat anywhere, usually in the TV room. Outside, there were the usual outdoor training equipment, like crawl-barbs and logs. Inside was a very well equiped gym. On the left, about 1 kilometer distant was the shooting range. On the right about 5 kilometers distant, and confined with barbed wire to a 3 kilometer square was the warplay zone. If you went in there without authorisation, and got shot, nobody would care. In other words, you always had to register to enter that zone because of the risk of flying bullets. It was dug into the ground about 2 meters deep to prevent bullets from hitting camp.

The daily routine mostly consisted of morning training, lunch, and then you read a book, go for a conference, or go off into town. You could also go off to practise shooting or something. Every few weeks, we would get a job.

Mercenary Jobs are of different kinds. There are open missions, such as when we fought in Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo, or Ivory coast. In these cases, the government invited us, and we go fight on the side of the government, using local troops as backup, and it is known openly that we are mercenaries. In such cases, almost everybody would go, and only the 'crack team' would stay behind.

The 'crack team' was usually sent when the second kind of job came up. These are covert missions where we do not openly pose as mercenaries. For example, in Columbia, we have fought for both the government and for the rebels. We go there and fight in plain clothes. Mercenaries are usually not called in for banal tasks such as taking a town, but for specific tasks, like killing a certain leader.

And why are mercenaries so succesful? It is a combination of skill and some really bad-ass weapons. EO had some of the best bp-vests I have ever seen. They were very very light, and almost as thin as a normal shirt. I saw them stop .375s easily. EO also had RPGs with heat tracking grenades. They had a few copters, but I never saw those being used. They had a single spy plane, and it was used all the time.

Against that arsenal, it is no wonder that an army of 40 000 surrendered to a group of 300 mercs in Sierra Leone.

12/06/2002

The Bullet in my chest that sent me home

I've got a number of people asking me what happened. Well, it was all very unspectacular.

I was going out with a group of mercs two days after we started taking Man. We entered a Toyota 'Taliban' (those Toyota trucks that have pick-up backs, and seat 7), with a machine gun mounted. As we entered town, we came under fire from the roadside bushes. We returned fire, and a friend of mine - Akamba - started shooting with the machine gun. I automatically assumed that the enemy was on the side towards which he was shooting the gun, so I jump out of the truck and took cover on the other side, aiming my rifle at towards the fire. And got shot from behind.

It turns out that they had people on both sides of the road.

My merc troop dropped me in the Toyota, and retreated. There were too many of the enemy, and we were too few, anyways.

12/05/2002

Lil Was' from Sierra Leone

Writing about the the taking of Man in Cote made me remember an incident that happened in Sierra Leone many years ago. I was in Sierra Leone, but as a psychologist, not as a soldier. I don't know however a degree in criminal psychology made the Agency think I would be the perfect interrogator, but it somehow turned out that way.

Anyways, Government troops captured a rebel boy, and asked me to find out from him where Mosquito was hiding. Mosquito was some kind of never-seen, but always talked about leader. So I get this 12 year old boy sitting in the chair opposite mine, and he is supposed to be some key figure.

"What is your name", I asked quitely.

"Lil' Was'", he replied, nodding his head wierdly.

"Little Wasp", I wrote on my block. "So 'Wasp' is your family name". He smiled that child soldier smile. When they smile, their face somehow seems to not have moved at all, and their smile is not an expression of joy, but of contempt. Child soldiers want to be men. Every man who does not carry a gun is not a man to them. He is an object of contempt.

"OK, Little Wasp, do you know where General Mosquito is?".

"Yessa"

"Where is he staying?"

"I don't know, sah"

The officer standing beside me slapped the boy. Tears welled in his eyes, and he squeezed his mouth tight. He was angry, but seemed used to that emotion. He did nothing, and showed no tension in his body.

I told them to take the Wasp away. I knew he at most knew vaguely where Mosquito was, and what he knew he would not tell. He hated us in the uncomplicated way only a child can hate. The rebels had probably killed his family, raped the womenfolk, and burnt down his home, but they where somehow his allies, and we where his enemies.

The next day, I called Wasp back. I explained to him that he didn't need to go back to the rebels. I told him that we would use the UN provided refugee funds to find him shelter in one of the shelter villages, and we would give him an education.

But Wasp didn't want those things. The Sierra Leonan child soldiers never wanted to go back to school. They never stayed in the camps for long either. So I decided to simply give him money and send him back to the village he told us he came from. I gave him the UN amount ( ~$20), and offered him a further $50 from my pocket. He collected it, then said that he wanted to buy something from me. On my questioning look, he pointed at one of my green army t-shirts. He gave me the $50s back, and took the shirt. I offered it to him for free, but he insisted.

Wasp left that evening, walking off into the town.

3 days later, I was walking with the company into town. On the outskirts of the town, I saw a familiar piece of cloth on the floor. I looked, and it was my green t-shirt. Beside it was a blacked heap of coal and the metal rings from the inside of tires. A cross was stuck in the ground, and "rebel" was written on the cross.

The townsfolk had killed Lil Wasp for being a rebel.

Fighting in the Ivory Coast

I'm home because I fucked up. I got shot in the chest, and they sent me back to South Africa. Once in SA, the shit really hit me. I was fucking killing people back on the Coast. I requested to be flown back to the semi-permanent base I call home. I'm now here, wrapped up in badages, and having trouble breathing properly.

The one thing I really remember was the house-to-house in Man. The government troops are so fucking incompetent. You know how they fight? The run into a house with AK47s, and just start shooting every single wall till everything living is dead. My mercenary company is really good, and we showed them how to properly take a house. Theoretically, one should break the door open, and expect someone to start shooting. It usually happens that way.

On the second day after we arrived, and wanted to take Man. I went along. King broke open a door, and we stood by the side. A local sergeant burst into the house shooting wildly. I actually heard the single shot that killed that man. His submachine fire stopped, and we knew there was at least one belligerent inside. I peeked in, and saw nobody.

King entered, threw a fast acting low density smoke/stun grenade inside, and we charged in. It turns out that there was a second door on the left, and the fighter was shooting from the inside of the door. He peeked out, and started shooting King with a semi-automatic gun with a fold back handle. He handled the rifle as if it were a pistol. He just kept shooting King, giving me extra time to target and shoot him.

It was my first kill, and it is not a nice sight when someones head caves in. He dropped to the floor, flailing his arms and legs. Some local army soldier started shooting him with an automatic. The bastard is dead!, I wanted to scream, you can stop now! But he just kept shooting. It was a young man of maybe 18. He didn't look like he had been fighting long, and on his face was this intensly concentrated look.

We searched the house, but found nothing more apart from a few civilian corpses upstairs. I didn't join the rest in the attack, but went back to the squat. I felt sick. I kept thinking of that caved in skull, and his arms flailing as he was being shot the second time.

12/02/2002

Formatting fixed. My lunch has been brought in, so I will depart to have a meal with Yusuf and Jose, my bodyguards.

Johnny comes back from South Africa.

I don't think any m*fucker is still reading my blog any longer, but who the fuck cares anyways. I've been through some hard few months, and I've got to settle down a bit before I can post a longer story about the shit that happened to me. K5 my beloved, I'll soon be visiting thou, so that you may cradle me, and sooth my troubled bossom.