Andy Bowson was back at the control centre by nine, starting to piece together the reports from the various raids around the country prior to a meeting with his superiors at tea time.
Days of painstaking follow-up work would be required, late nights and weekend working for him, them all, given their other enquiries were falling behind, they must be missing stuff despite all the additional resources now deployed. Of course, the media were having a field day, everyone could see something was up and recent events had drawn more foreign camera crews and reporters like honey attracts bees.
Three armed sieges were underway, one in Cambridge, of all places and two in Rochdale, the occupants heavily armed and more numerous than expected. Two coppers were being held hostage in one of them. In Birmingham another targeted group, again more heavily armed and numerous than expected, had shot their way out, killing three armed officers, injuring four more and had escaped: someone had messed up.
There had been sporadic armed resistance in four other raids, two officers injured, three suspects killed and two others wounded resisting arrest; nineteen of those they were looking for hadn’t been found at the addresses raided, but overall it was considered a significant success. Over one hundred and fifty suspects detained, numerous arms caches recovered and properties now being examined minutely. He and his colleagues still couldn’t believe the scale of it; that the information was highly accurate and had come from inside their organisation was now beyond question. The previously subdued, even despairing atmosphere in the office had evaporated entirely, to be replaced with one approaching triumph. If only he could share it.
To all of this were to be added the preliminary reports from the searches of the burned-out premises in Swindon and Reading. Damaged assault rifles, handguns, traces of ammunition, grenades, military grade explosives, detonators, had all been recovered, major caches as well. Additionally, there were almost irrecoverably burned bodies, especially from Swindon, numerous bodies believed there; teeth recovered indicating adults and children, plus four from Reading, all adults, confirmed by the recovering girl, who had clearly been spared. Similar to Birmingham, although that girl had never been found, thought Andy.
The witness had been able to provide little help. They had been masked, European looking, all wearing overalls. They had pretended to be gasmen, come to fix a leak, had asked questions of her father, shot her family one by one and carried her away before abandoning her in the field where she was found. Had she known that there were illegal firearms in her home? She’d denied it of course, what else did they expect, that might change as the realities of life began to sink in.
He wished he could be a fly on the wall in the COBRA meeting scheduled for nine o’clock on Saturday morning. The press would be torn between rage and exultation, the politicians between preening and fear of a public opinion which was shifting rapidly towards fury. It could be amusing, but most of all he wanted to ask the Director of MI5 for permission to see ‘Henry’, to wish him well.
And to talk.
SATURDAY, AFTER EASTER
The smoke was starting to clear after what was possibly the worst twenty-four hours of the Turk’s life; it would be several days more before they could fully quantify the damage they had suffered. They were always prepared for losses, defeats even; that was just part of the war, one of the ways they wore their enemies down: just keep coming back with more: more martyrs, more resources, more ambition. But this was on a different scale, a long way from mortal, but a disaster nonetheless, 1683 all over again? He hoped not, they had to prove not, reorder, strike hard and quickly, show they weren’t beaten, otherwise their backers would despair of them and move elsewhere. Good Friday the kaffirs called it, well it certainly had been for them.
They hadn’t picked up that they had lost two of their key UK lieutenants in the Swindon and Reading attacks, domestic fires as they had been reported locally for several hours. Communications couldn’t be regular, top down and need to know so far as possible, to prevent their enemies’ listening ears identifying their local volunteers. Reading was still being officially identified as a domestic fire, although the local media were now saying it looked like arson with a racial motive. Swindon was being reported as having terrorist links: the police had recovered weapons and many dead bodies, what was left of them, from the wreckage.
It was clear to the Turk that some sort of UK government secret death squad was operating, had managed to extract information from those attacked, sufficient that the overnight raids, and the follow-up ones today, appeared to have wiped out over sixty percent of the organisation, including most of the local volunteers they had so laboriously set up there over the past weeks, months and, years. Even the Liberian registered coaster bringing arms and volunteers into the east coast had been intercepted, eighteen more operatives lost and for sure the authorities would be tracing its labyrinthine ownership and contracting structures through the world’s shipping markets. They would relentlessly unpick that part of the organisation, stitch by stitch, unless his own government refused to co-operate when the enquiries reached their shores, as they inevitably would. That would test their mettle, their faith in the cause.
They still had resources in situ though, whole limbs that were entirely separate, known only to himself and those directly involved, including his four key lieutenants, two of whom were now gone, presumed killed. Everything was compartmentalised as far as possible so that if an operation and its resources were blown the others could continue unaffected. It appeared that, so far, the authorities didn’t seem to have penetrated the other two networks already in place. Breaking up one wouldn’t, couldn’t, lead to the other.
He cursed himself for not having seen what was happening sooner, too complacent after Birmingham, that should have rung alarm bells. They had been too focused on striking back, too confident that their people would not betray them even if taken, their structures insulating them from local losses. He was missing something, assuming they had made someone in Reading and Swindon talk: and it had to be both, they were detached from one another, how else had they been able to move, in only twenty-four hours, to roll up over half the organisation so cleanly?
Not nearly enough time.
That’s why most of those on the ground had stayed put, had reasoned that moving was riskier than staying where they thought they were safe. Bad decision after all.
Had their own higher structure been penetrated somehow, was someone betraying them? When one started thinking like that, it could all fall apart; that was after all how the Algerian military had won their dirty war against the insurgent FIA, GIA and others in the nineties: get them believing they were all betraying one another so that they turned on each other and began a process of mutual destruction.
No, if they had been betrayed at a senior level forty percent of the networks in the field would not still be intact. Now was the time for cool heads, regroup, use what is left soon before it can also be broken up.
They had been planning eight major actions, all Mumbai style; seven in London, all on their Pentecost Sunday and in their half term school holidays when London would be busy with tourists.
A major Christian festival underway, hence the planned attack on St Paul’s Cathedral, highly symbolic, highlighting the weakness of their church, to hit what even the Nazis hadn’t destroyed. Simultaneously, five attacks on major railway stations and underground intersections, Paddington, Victoria, Waterloo, King’s Cross and Euston, paralysing the capital’s transport infrastructure for days, destroying business and tourism confidence. A gun attack in the crowded streets of the entertainment district, Leicester Square and Covent Garden; sixteen teams of four gunmen, moving through the streets, causing panic, crowds fleeing from one group of martyrs and into the next. If the teams made it they could then target Trafalgar Square, within sight of Buckingham Palace, highly symbolic again, perhaps even penetrate the National Portrait Gallery with its idolatrous focus on representations of the human body. And the casualties would be immense, it went without saying, bigger than New York, but worse in some ways as well because it would be at street level, more personal, over an extended time and a wider area.
Finally, Manchester, that institution so beloved of and such a stronghold of their now distancing allies, the BBC in Salford Quays. A quiet day there, not ideal, but it needed to be concurrent with the other operations: truck bombs to flatten large parts of the buildings, suicide gunmen to kill those that survived. With a bit of luck some of their ‘allies’ would become casualties, showing them who were the supplicants now, but more importantly, bringing low one of the country’s best-known institutions, taming them.
Perhaps it was our allies who have betrayed us, entirely possible although they know next to nothing about our organisation, but they could have marked us for their intelligence services, have been following us, eavesdropping, turning people.
No, you’re getting paranoid.
We need to accelerate, reshape, fewer operations, two big ones, maximum three, don’t disperse the impact. Definitely the BBC though, outside London, softer target, forget St Paul’s; one station certainly. Go for a weekday, maximum impact. He looked at the sketch plans, obvious really, Euston, under-station taxi ranks are just too easy, it’s also the main line to Birmingham and Manchester, ideal then. About forty volunteers for each, leaves a lesser number. Where, The City of London, too hard, too dispersed, Houses of Parliament, too hard, likewise Buckingham Palace; so, another station or the entertainment district? His puritanical soul cried out for the latter; there wouldn’t be as many tourists, although a Friday in the spring would be close enough. Yes, that, and concentrate the remaining explosives on the other targets; after all they had been talking about demolishing Euston for years, let’s show them how it’s done.
Now, to work: time is against us.
© 1642again 2018