Although the Viper had not been born in Afghanistan, he felt a close kinship with the local people. The compound he was billeted in with other eager young jihadis, who had all sworn allegiance to al-Qaida and its Jihad, was next to the militia barracks on the edge of the city of Farah. The local commander of the barracks had received news earlier that morning from the Taliban government in Kabul of impending attacks on al-Qaida’s training camps and compounds in western Afghanistan. To meet the threat he ordered the loading up of two pickup trucks with jerry cans of water, supplies, weapons and ammunition. The trucks drove out of the barracks to start the journey to lookout posts high on the peaks of the Khak-i-Safid mountain range, which overlooked the River Farah as it meandered through the desert of western Afghanistan.
The Viper sat behind the wheel of one of the battered Toyota pickups with his friend Kazim Khan sat beside him. Two other young jihadis squeezed into the flatbed behind among the stores and provisions. Soon they left the metalled highway and hung on tight as they began the steep climb up the rough track to the top of the mountain. During the dusty drive the young Afghan admired the breath-taking scenery of the native homeland of his parents, and thought about his wasted years in that infidel country, England. In his mind, he tried to recall the happy faces of his family, but the cruel image of his mother framed in an upstairs window with the smoke billowing around her erased them.
A wheel dropped with a heavy jolt into a deep pothole in the track and wrenched the steering wheel out of his hands. Cursing, he wrestled with the wheel to keep control as the truck bounced up and down as the track narrowed and became bumpier,
‘Careful my friend, we must arrive in one piece if we are to carry out our orders! You seem to be in another world?’ asked Kazim.
‘I was thinking of my family.’ replied the Viper.
‘Come, Muhammad, you are tired, pull over and I will drive.’
The Viper stopped and changed seats with Kazim. He leant back in the passenger seat and caressed the silver rupee on its chain around his neck, the only remaining link to his murdered family, given to him on his eighteenth birthday by his young sister, Aaila. He knew that he would never track down the thugs who had killed his family, but was determined to exact retribution on the British Government, who he held responsible for allowing the inferior culture that tolerated louts to breed and roam the streets, defying all law and order.
‘We’re here.’ said Kazim, bringing him out of his reverie as they arrived at the lookout post. They quickly unloaded the trucks and erected the tents that would give them shelter from the cold night air. Gathering sticks and breaking branches from the sparse sprinkling of trees and stunted bushes on the mountaintop, they soon got a fire blazing and used a blackened pot to cook mashawa soup, made from chicken and onions, for their evening meal.
Early the next day, the Viper carefully surveyed the horizon from his vantage point high on the mountain. The sun had just risen in the east behind him, its rays penetrating the mountain pass and the road far below that led to the barracks on the outskirts of the city of Farah. He scanned the sky to the west, following his orders to keep a constant vigilance for enemy fighters that would soon be approaching.