THE PLAN BEGINS

 ISIS REGIONAL HEADQUARTERS - DEIR al-ZOR, SYRIA

AUGUST 31, 2016

 

                Abu Bakr was not alone and soon felt the hand of his passenger upon his shoulder.

         It was 3:30 am, darkness was in abundance and the driver, instructed not to use his headlights, rolled blind through the grinding billows of storm driven sand that howled and moaned their way down the narrow, dimly lit streets of the old West Village.

  

               He found his way easily.

            Born in Deir al-Zor to a family of farmers, Bakr had been coming to the market since he first crawled as a child. For him, the route and the routine, it was always the same, as it was for everything else life laid upon his table here in the land of the one true God.

             This day, the back of his truck was filled with dust covered cases of bottled water and rough, wooden crates full of eggplant, zucchini, garlic, beans, cabbage and tomatoes for sale at the morning market.

        “You may stop here, my brother” the passenger said as the vehicle rounded a corner and entered the market square. “No headlights please until you leave the area. God willing this storm will end soon. Do you have a phone? If you do, please give it to me now.”

        Bakr did as he was instructed and removed a Samsung smartphone from the cargo pocket of his right pants leg. He then handed it to the man seated to his right who in turn passed it to one of the two men seated behind them.

       “As I’m sure you understand,” the passenger said, “We must keep your phone. I will remember your service. May Allah be praised. Blessings and peace to your family, Abu.”

        “Thank you, my brother” the driver replied, “Blessings and peace to your family as well. Allah Akbar!”

        “Allah Akbar!” came the response from all three men, who, with the rustling of weapons and cartridge belts, left the vehicle and instantly disappeared into the swirling mass of wind whipped brown desert sand that enveloped everything in its path.

        They walked but several meters before ducking into a doorway that bordered the alley. Two men watched as the third crushed the driver’s phone under the heal of his combat boot. The three then moved as one until they came to the gated entrance of a small courtyard bordering the back side of a two-story residence.

        The modest, rectangular house had narrow windows and a small balcony on the second floor overlooking the courtyard and the labyrinth of alleyways which allowed for easy access from the location to the rest of the village.

        Two sentries stood on the balcony holding automatic weapons, both pointed directly at the men standing at the gate below.  Four more armed men emerged from inside and approached the three newcomers on the other side of the barricade. Words were exchanged. The three handed their rifles through the tall vertical wrought iron bars to those on the other side and the gate opened.

        The three disarmed men were then escorted across the courtyard and through a door into what had once been the main living room for a Shia family.

        Slain two years ago during the initial stages of the Syrian ISIS occupation, the parents were forced to watch at gun point while the heads of their three small children were severed from their writhing bodies. Then, while on his knees surrounded by the bleeding remains of his decapitated young, the husband endured the repeated rape of his wife until they too came under the knife, their blood joining that of their children’s in staining the clay tile of the courtyard a deeper shade of red.

        Now converted into an ISIS safe house, walls once adorned with family pictures now supported rows of sandbags piled to the ceiling in every room of a first floor saturated to the teeth with the familiar scents of men at war.

            An aromatic stew of sweat, sulfur, gun oil and diesel fuel laid siege to air already thickened with the smoke of the coveted aged Turkish tobaccos the Islamic State fighters routinely plundered from the bodies of the Kurds. This sweet aroma   combined with the odors of allspice, cloves and coriander coming from the curry and rice simmering in the kitchen creating an olfactory experience quite like no other.

         The scent of food and warriors prepared to die. Here, both were present in stark proportions as weapons, ammunition, and ordnance were everywhere.

         Standing racks of AK-47’s and U.S issued M4 rifles lined the walls while RPG’s rested near every window and doorway. Ammo boxes measured by the dozens were piled in the corners. Men wiled away idle time loading cartridges into the hundreds of empty clips that emerged from the boxes stacked beside the munition containers. IED makings, detonators and fuses, had their own place of privilege in a room adjacent to the hallway where the escort wearing a black headdress, black leather jacket and dark gray tactical cargos led the three men.

         Stopping at the entrance to the kitchen, the escort spoke to the one who was the leader between the three. 

        “Only you will go past this point,” he said. “Your men will stay here in the kitchen where they can rest and get something to eat. You will rejoin them shortly. Now please follow me and watch your step.”

         Leaving his men to enjoy steaming bowls of sizzling lamb, rice and platters of freshly baked naan brushed with olive oil, he followed his host to the end of the hallway and down a sandbag lined stairway ten meters long descending through the Syrian soil. They went down yet another hallway before they entered the doorway into a five-meter square sandbagged-lined room.  

In the center of the room was a conference table with two chairs on either side and one it’s end facing a flat screen monitor on the opposing wall. He was instructed to take the chair facing the monitor. His escort remained standing at the room’s entrance.

        Two men took a seat on each side of him, with the one on his right giving a signal to an individual sitting in the far-left corner of the room and adjacent to the monitor on the wall.  

         This man immediately initiated the Tor browser protocols on his laptop which allowed for the secured communication with the man whose face soon appeared on the monitor.  

 

             He had piercing, dark eyes and spoke in a soft, reserved voice.

            “Is it true about al-Adani?” the man on the screen asked. “Tell us what you know.”

The man didn’t know at first what to say in response to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

           Shock, fear, respect, and reverence. It all embraced him at once like the sand from the storm that still covered his boots.

           It was the Calif himself.

            The presence of God could not have been more intimidating.

           The man to his left then spoke. He was Iyad al-Obaidi, ISIS Defense Minister.

           “My brother,” al-Obaidi said. “You need to relax and answer our questions. They are but just a few and then you will be on your way with Allah’s blessing. Now we need to know if our brother al-Adani was killed yesterday. We have been told that you have seen his body. Is this true?”

         Abu Mohammad al-Adani was ISIS Chief of External Operations, head of the Emni, a special unit established to execute operations outside of ISIS territory and senior leader of the Islamic State, second only to the man who now spoke from the monitor.

            “It is true”, the man finally replied. “We were leaving al-Bab along the north road. There were six vehicles in all when drones came out of nowhere. I was in the last vehicle. He was in the second vehicle from the front. It was blasted to pieces. His body parts were everywhere. I am sorry, my brothers. There is no doubt he is gone.”

             “And you my brother, were you hurt?” asked the man to his right who was Ayad al-Jumaili, ISIS Chief of Security.

               “No, I was spared, praise to Allah,” he answered.

         “Your men upstairs, were they with you when this attack happened?” al-Jumaili again inquired?

           The man responded, “Yes, they were with me as well. Good men. Both have killed many infidels. They bring you great honor, my brothers.”

         “That is good,” said the face on the screen. “I have heard enough. Please remove him from the room.”

          Upon al-Baghdadi’s instructions, the guard who hadn’t moved an inch from his position by the door, turned to the man in the chair, pointed a silenced Sig Sauer pistol at this head and sent a .40cal. round through his ear, knocking the man sideways off his chair while splattering the sandbags to his right with a mixed gush of blood, bone and brain.

            No man present blinked an eye.

           Al-Jumaili turned to the guard and said,” Make sure the two traitors with him upstairs don’t leave. I want them questioned and then executed. Make a video. Post it to YouTube. Our brother al-Adani had a five-million-dollar bounty on his head. The next time someone tries to collect blood money from the Americans, they will think twice.”

           “It shall be done in Allah’s name,” the guard said who then left the room while the senior leaders conducted further business.

                                         

           “The Americans are getting closer!”, al-Jumaili said to the man on the screen.

        “Mosul will soon fall,” he added, “and then they will throw everything they have at Raqqa. Aleppo too is gone and the Russians will soon be at our backs, as well. I fear, my brothers, that without a distraction, we are soon to be scattered to the hills and caves, reduced to insignificance like a flea on the back of a dog. Our funding from our Saudi brothers is getting less and less, as well. They claim that the Americans have gotten to the King who has let his will be felt with swords on the backs of ISIS necks. The head of one of our brothers was found two days ago in a dumpster in Riyad. Now I hear nothing but excuses while infidel armies’ mass against us!”

        “I agree with my brother.” al-Obaidi responded. “The Americans control the European infidels like the goats they are. The British, the French, the Germans. If America stops, they will stop. No more planes, no more drones, no more missiles. We need to stop America!”

         Both men then looked at the screen. The man in the black kaftan and headscarf stroked his long, graying beard and stared through the camera with charcoal eyes.

           Quiet at first, al-Baghdadi soon spoke.

       “Last year,” the Calif said, “I sent our brother al-Armani to Canada where he met with our brother al-Obari in Toronto. Al-Obari is the Imam of a mosque in Dearborn, Michigan. Al-Armani’s task was to lay the groundwork for the “distraction” that you now seek. We knew then that this day would soon come, when America’s money and airpower would start to overcome our abilities here in our homeland and we knew then that we would become pests of no consequence like Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, unless we brought the American war to the Americans, on their land and into their homes.”

         “My brothers,” he continued, “It brings me joy to tell you that such a plan is in place. For years we have spent waiting for this moment. I am glad it is here. Today we pull the trigger. It will take a while for the bullet to reach its target, but when it does, the world will stand on its head because America, my brothers, will be on its knees!”

         “My Calif, it is a bomb, a chemical weapon?” al-Jumaili asked.

         “No, my brothers,” al-Baghdadi explained, “It is something far more devastating, something that will shatter the walls of fortress America and tear apart the fabric of invulnerability they so cherish. Something that will make 911 look like the hatchling idea of children at play. No mere bomb will do what we are about to achieve.”

         “My Calif, then please tell us. If it is not a bomb, then what is it?” al-Obaidi asked.

       Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, looked into the screen and responded with one word….

                                                                             “Invasion.”