Escape From Baghdad
(© Luke Duffy)
Marcus had left the army five
years earlier, and had become a private military contractor in Iraq, being paid to escort and protect VIP’s as they travelled about. He did not do it for
the ‘War on Terror’, or so that he could make a difference, he was in it purely
for the money and many of his old army friends had done the same.
Since the flu had hit the Middle East, the situation had steadily deteriorated. The extremists believed that it was a
sign from God that they must continue the fight to rid themselves of the
Infidel from the Holy Land, and began to increase their attacks.
With the hospitals being run
down and neglected, the dead were piling up and every day, more and more
funerals were being held. The number of riots, bombings, shootings, rocket
attacks and kidnappings had gone through the roof.
Many of the Western
organisations were, as far as Marcus could tell, slowly pulling out and hoping
that no one would notice. It was like the retreat from Moscow, and everybody
wanted to get away. All the bosses and company directors had made their
excuses, and had fled for home. Now, the military was closing down and steadily
retreating in to the International Zone and a steady trickle of troops and
material were loaded onto planes and flown out from Baghdad.
Many districts within the city
had been closed off as ‘Quarantine Zones’ by the police and Iraqi army. Within
those zones, the population was left to fend for themselves or die. Militants
attacked the walls and the checkpoints from both sides, some of them being
trapped inside. Their compatriots saw it as their duty to try to free them from
the outside so they could continue the fight. The streets had become a
battleground and casualties were mounting.
Very few people were arriving
in country and more left each day. Engineers, diplomats, doctors, advisors, all
of them headed for the airport and the airfields in the hope of getting a
flight out of the Hot Zone. The backlog was ridiculous and people even fought
with each other in the terminals in desperation of getting a seat on a plane,
Marcus’ team snaked their way
through the tight and congested dirty streets of Baghdad in their four, heavily
armoured SUVs, with turret-mounted machine guns. Horns were blowing, people
hollered, and in general, the Iraqi drivers did as they pleased without any
consideration to the rules of the road or, other vehicles. It was like a game
They were on their way to drop
their last two remaining clients at the airport. The rest had fled over the
previous weeks, and the two nervous and wide-eyed men that sat, strapped to their
seats, were keen to get out.
The convoy had to push through
and stay mobile, avoiding becoming a static target in the narrow, confined
streets. Every man in the team was poised, with his weapons ready for a
They had all been in attacks,
either from roadside bombs, rocket attacks and even small arms, with the
insurgents actually wanting a stand-up fight with rifles and machine guns. It
was new to none of them, and they were a hardened and experienced crew.
Gathered from a wide range of
military backgrounds and nationalities, Marcus had nicknamed his team, ‘The
Foreign Legion’. He had two American ex-Special Forces, three South Africans
and even two Serbians, that were rumoured to be wanted in connection with war
crimes. With a couple of Australians and New Zealanders thrown in to the mix,
they were a multi-cultural bunch and no one could ever accuse them of not being
tolerant of other nationalities.
To their right was a high curb
with open waste ground beyond it and buildings in the distance with a densely
built-up area to their immediate left. They came to a junction controlled by
Iraqi Police and began to slow, keeping their distance from the traffic in
front in order to maintain manoeuvrability. The police were holding the traffic
and allowing the vehicles across from the left. They were making a poor job of
it, and with the volume of traffic in all directions, the crossroads was almost
at a standstill, even for the drivers who were supposed to be moving.
[ Continue to page 2 ]