THE BLUE SHARKS
Coastguard vessel, Ragondi, reached Fua Mulak waters with 18 divers of the Blue Sharks at 0:30 hrs. She came closest to the island within range of 1000 metres, approaching from the east towards west between north and south tips of the island. The current would carry the divers further south. The machine gun on havitha could point the vessel obviously during its entry but too far from range. Possibly the boats moving around in the waters keeping 1500 metre distance hinted the enemy of no intrusion. The radar would find out the movement of the vessel and when its momentum turn zero there could be suspicion. The divers carefully slipped into the water from the opposite side of the vessel facing away from the island. The artillery boxes were swiftly lowered into water.
That instant, 0:37 hrs, gun fire started from the knoll but all fired to water like in a battleship game. Few minutes later, the tank launched a shell over the island. It took a moment for the tank to reverse its turret, raise the cannon and load the proper kind of shell. Since the Oplot tank got to raise its cannon a split degree higher over the palms and houses standing so close to it while sitting on the opposite side of the island, she misfired into water beyond Ragondi or even the boats circling at 1500 metre range. It did rip off the roof of a house in Funad to the loud explosion of the low shelling.
In the next mortar round, the tank elevated its cannon high and fired directly into the sky. Meanwhile, Ragondi turned away from the island. Shrapnel flew into the dark waters pretty close to the vessels. In minutes, another rocket was launched and a boat caught fire. Six crews jumped into water, picked by another vessel.
By then Funad folks rushed to the highway to observe loud blasts from the tank. Little children were crying. They woke from sleep. It was like a gale wind.
Funad folks waited for the tank to fire again. More people gathered further north and southeast of the highway to watch the tank blast off shells. Surprised islanders just wanted to see the mighty Oplot fire. They laughed. Even the mercenaries observed baffled to find the animated crowd behave foolishly.
Everyone folded arms on their chests. When a blast of thunder shudder their livers to drop out of the mouths they ran for cover, into the darkness. The shock terrified them. Then when nothing happened but to find them still alive, they started to laugh about the fear they just felt. Nobody experienced anything shaken like this in their lives before. Every time it fired they ran away in horror and in an instant they returned from hiding and asked for more. The mercenaries continued grinning at the stupid islanders and fired more shells just to amuse them. Shaken, not stirred.
Sergeant Essen in command reported to Nine-One it was useless shelling. Nine-One ordered to cut fire from Nine-Seven, the battle tank. Nine-Two and Nine-Four continued firing at the boats outside Fua Mulak to stop them from coming into closer waters.
Captain Nabil on Ragondi observed the BTR-4 moving on the coastal road, passing by the lights in the mosque area. Nine-Eight was now concentrating on the parish and coast encircling Malegam, Doondigam, Funad and Miskiimagu; south of Miskiimagu Pass. The greater portion of the island lying north containing Hodand, Madand, Dandimagu and Digwand left in the hands of Nine-One. Then in an instant the BTR-4 climbed into the water heading towards Ragondi. Captain Nabil watched. Quite dramatically the amphibious hit the waves and slowed down, completely immersed in water. The driver in it decided not to go beyond the forceful waves across the reef. It turned back and climbed the island.
In the deep black underwater, the Blue Sharks dived on their mission, Lieutenant Thasneema leading with co-diver. Four rows of divers followed carrying six artillery boxes between hands. They progressed slowly and easily with the flow of current and pushed by the fins maintaining depth of five metres. Particularly on this dive they could not go deep to maintain constant metabolism and nor should they surface for precaution. They headed a kilometre.
Lieutenant Thasneema carried an infrared light to show the way. All their headlamps switched off. They were plugged to consoles and computers that monitor their metabolism, mixtures of gases and consumption, audible depth and direction indicators, all digital.
Lt Thasneema watched her computer for GPS data she fed, digits running back and forth rapidly. She got to maintain zero on three dimensions; left and right, back and forth, up and down. The co-diver maintained watch on teamwork wrapped behind. In tiring effort, someone might need to take turn free for a while. Those leading two divers wore rebreather tanks that recycled the used air through a small sophisticated gadget. Each kit contained five tanks, two 12 litre tanks and three 7 litre tanks. These units were extraordinarily large in size and specially made for deep diving. Divers with these kits could feel a strong impact of the current against the weight dragging them. Nevertheless, it was required for a long and risky dive when nobody was certain of the time it would take to climb. They carried two rebreather tanks because it could supply excess in case someone required simultaneous breathing.
It took fifty-eight minutes to cover the distance in such a hurdle fighting with the current in favourable course but too strong. It would have been harder still if they had gone beyond the hole to fight back against the current and with such load. For this reason, Thasneema headed straight up to the house reef and then cascaded towards the hole. It was a hard task, heavily loaded and exhausting while breathing through a mouthpiece and fighting from being dragged away. Opportunely, water temperature remained at 21˚ Celsius. Had it been dawn, this dive could have been more difficult.
Lieutenant Thasneema saw the glow of lights directly in front of her. Mauruf was down there leaning against a big rock. She hurriedly pulled aside a boulder, experiencing a strong current brushing against the reef. Fighting against forceful current was a stupid thing to do during a dive. And in the dark she was virtually blind to see a thing. She had to use a small light to proceed. The divers followed the lead of glow sticks pushing and pulling the artillery boxes through the narrow canal and embedded mud. It was another difficult job. More than what was anticipated or never imagined; those heavy boxes inside the narrow passage got real weight with gravity effect when water pressure slackened beneath. It took thirty minutes to clear all the boxes through the 300 metre long and narrow canal.
Meanwhile, the machine guns mounted on the knoll and the dock continued fire sporadically to keep the boats away.
Thasneema and the co-diver with rebreather kits could not pass through the narrow canal with them on. They surfaced to the reef to get rid of the kits. After locking the valves they left the kits on the reef. The two divers then followed Mauruf breathing simultaneously from his reserve regulator.
They climbed into a ditch some thirty metres behind the backyards of the single row of houses facing Malegam Pass. This area covered low undergrowth and mostly thick grass. It was fully dark and the backlights switched off. They could see Malegam Pass in the lights between the houses. They could hear echoes of the guns going fukku-da-da-da. The divers crawled through the drench to the mangrove waters hidden secretly behind huge trees. Mauruf took off his mouthpiece, “How long did it take?”
Co-diver returned, “One hour and twenty-eight minutes.”
“Awesome!” Precisely a professional bunch of divers could risk this dive with that amount of air in their tanks. “We got to cross to Doondigam through the mangrove. Some guys are waiting there to pick the load. Follow me!”
Corporal Midhat observed the climb through the waterway and called Captain Harris on the receiving end at Doondigam. Lieutenant Qusay arranged the safe house on Doondigam Pass. He called a squad of military and police officers getting set for an assault. All military and police depots on the island were vacated. They were using reliable civilian residences in complete secrecy. Reliable places since they knew some on the island were connected to Jaws of Sprout.
The eighteen divers and Mauruf swam across Bandara Kuli waters pushing the float of artillery boxes. It took some time to cross 300 metres and climb at the dirt area by the south, another 700 metres of dirt lie to the Indian space station interface and further still the hamlet of Doondigam a distance away. Captain Harris sent a bunch with wheelbarrows to pull the heavy load across a kilometre from mangrove waters to the house located in Doondigam. All the divers left their tanks and weights, lifejackets and fins on the bank of Bandara Kuli and took on foot to Doondigam in total darkness.
The group reached the house called Fiyathoshi at 2:40 hrs, under two hours since the dive began. Major Mustag assumed two hours beginning from 23:30 since the departure of Ragondi from Addu or perhaps he was not even thinking about the divers ever made it.
At Doondigam house, Fiyathoshi, an important venue of the awful night, Lieutenant Thasneema and the divers gathered to a large hall after passing through a long corridor. This house faced Doondigam Pass so they maintained practical silence and the lights turned dim. There were military officers wearing green camouflage pants, black shirts, heavy boots and red berets. Artillery piled up in the room soon to be distributed and a map spread on the tiled floor. The divers pulled to a resting position lying on the dirty and dampened floor leaning against the walls on their backs. Nobody got ridden of their diveskins.
Lieutenant Qusay briefed her with the situation speaking in a low voice, “Major Mustag with Major Altaf and three hundred troopers are in the outer waters. The rest remain in Addu as a reserve back up team. My boys, ten over here, the others are supplying ammunition to certain points. The plan is with fifty troopers supported by a hundred and forty police officers we take south of Miskiimagu Pass.” He tapped the map, “Big area but we start with the dock and take over the highway.”
Thasneema asked quizzically, “Your boys don’t seem to be ready! Why aren’t they wearing helmets?”
“Look! We are posted without bullet-proof vests and helmets. We do not need armour in Fua Mulak. This is why you supplied the rocket launchers and artillery. The police have riot gear and helmets but they neither have bullet-proof vests. Some of them are in the houses around here. Some in pick-up trucks waiting orders to advance north of Miskiimagu. My boys here will take the RPG and head for the Oplot on the highway, not too far from here in Funad. We then knock out the gun on the dockyard and climb into the boats in the dark.”
“What about the tourists?”
“Six near the gun. They are everywhere, in the hotels on Funad beach, fifty or so at Efrémen Secondary School and the rest in Dandimagu.”
“How many mercenaries at the gun point...?”
The door opened. Three soldiers and someone in plainclothes entered the inner room.
“Captain Harris,” Qusay introduced the officer in plainclothes, “And over here the Blue Sharks.”
Captain Harris said, “What’s your plan?”
“Take positions on the dock and Miskiimagu Pass in the dark and wait for orders.”
“Then get me something to wear.”
Lieutenant Qusay received a buzz on his mobile phone in vibration mode. He picked it and listened, then turned to face the group, “Hush! The armoured truck is heading this way.” Three of them rushed through the long corridor to the front hall and watched behind the Venetian blinds.
Thasneema observed the beam of a truck that climbed Doondigam Pass and approaching at moderate speed, her heartbeats loud and intensive. When it came in view it was pretty close to the house. It was not any kind of a truck she had seen in the army. An eight-wheel amphibious painted in army green or it appeared rather black. Only thing missing was its turret however an anti-aircraft gun was mounted on coaxial stand. She guessed right, it was only the armoured body of the vehicle. It could not launch a missile without a turret. She saw the mercenaries inside the truck relaxed and smoking as if they expected no trouble. It was silent again. The hum of the engine passed out of earshot. Nobody said a word and nobody moved.
Abruptly, somebody stumbled into the hall in diffused light, from a backdoor. She felt her heart stop. A shiver ran down her body. He was a tall black guy in police uniform who could not help laughing like if he caught them in a prank.
Captain Harris grasped his breath. “Where have you been?” he uttered relieved from shock.
“Did you see that thing?”
“I was on Doondigam Pass when it turned this way. I ducked behind a fence and watched it pass. You don’t know the fright I felt.” The tall black cop started to laugh again. “It’s just routine patrol. The truck keeps pushing around south of the island. What a night! It’s damn quiet out here. I think we are good at nothing but sit and watch.”
“Quiet! Keep your voice down!” Captain Harris then introduced, “Here’s Lieutenant Thasneema of the Blue Sharks. This is Inspector Jabir.”
“Where’s Azmyl?” asked Lieutenant Qusay.
“He is with the Atoll Chief,” replied Inspector Jabir, “at the school area and we can’t call him.”
“Where have you been all this time?”
“In Funad, around the Ring for some time, I had food and smoke. You know, I sent two girls to flirt with the bad guys on the dock. They wanted drinks and I’ve told the hotels to release any amount of liquor and beer to the mercenaries. I saw them carry cases on shoulders from Funad hotels to the dock.”
Captain Harris interrupted, “When was it?”
“A couple of hours ago, shortly after the Oplot fire...”
“Who are the girls?” asked Qusay.
“Fathina and Zuba,” Jabir replied. “Many people are there in Funad area watching the tank fire. Nobody around here...”
“Come on! We have to watch this!” said Captain Harris, “Let’s go join the others! Jabir, you lead the Blue Sharks with snipers. You’ll crawl into Doondigam School and wait for my signal. Observe the dock activity with night-vision aid.”
They crossed the hall and joined the rest in the inner room. Captain Harris was seriously planning on an attack supposing he could take an advantage while the mercenaries were boozing on the dock. He arranged ten soldiers to the highway with a Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher to hit the battle tank. He called twenty other troopers and police to standby on Miskiimagu Pass. No one could come to the south side without crossing this broad road shading a boulevard end to end across the island.
In the rush Captain Harris entered a bedroom on a dark passage accessed from the long corridor and sat down by the computer to chat with QRF8 through the Internet using filiki application. QRF8 supported his plan and coded a message to Major Mustag to be ready at any moment now.
Colonel Omar in charge of QRF8 snatched the landline phone and dialled the Indian military interface in Meedu to Lieutenant Commander of Bharatiya Nau Sena in charge of Operation Blue Waters. He flicked the cigar and said, “We might begin a manoeuvre or call it a potential assault at any given moment. Our climb with ammunition supply is successful. We need your help to blow the Oplot and the armoured cars, my boys will give a fight and troops are ready in outer waters to climb.”
Lieutenant Commander Kailash Mahendra said, “I’ll come back to you at once after consulting Malabar.” He was utterly baffled to hear the Maldivian military or somewhat amateur operated a so-named manoeuvre of an undefined ‘climb’ that the Colonel referred to as the backbone of an attack.