The Marko amphibious piloted by a coastguard vessel reached Hithadu few minutes before midnight. Three girls were taken to QRF8 in Herékendé where they provided information to the MNDF. Meanwhile, the MCF troop that landed in Gan occupied the VIP lounge at the airport called Finifenmau and spreading charts in the deep red, pink and brown background. Officer in charge planning a marine-air attack requested for blueprints of Hotel Korakeli, Southern Cross Hospital and Efrémen Secondary School, places where hostages were held.
It required a smart commando force to combat terrorism and the troop flown in from India had exactly the qualification and potential in them since 1987 when the IMSF (Indian Maritime Special Force) was created. The maritime unit of Marine Commando Force, widely known as the Marcos or the Marine Commandos, trained in different environments of land, sea and air – beach, coastal, riverine and jungle, heavy load parachute jump and deep diving, intelligence gathering, special warfare techniques, hostage rescue, marine explosives and three year a training course. One distinguished feature of the Marcos was that it happened to be the only unit allowed to grow beards for non-Sikh personnel and therefore sometimes referred to as Dandiwali Fauj or the Bearded Army. The Commandos unit in question belonged to the Indian Navy engaged with the ongoing operation of Blue Waters conducted from the coast of Malabar.
Commodore Josh Sharma just learnt that the terrorists were not carrying chemical weapons and they got no gasmask or any form of protection intending not to undertake suicide attempt, it evolved that a reaction should exercise non-lethal chemical weapons to cast out the terrorists among the hostages.
The Marine Commandos arrived with the most sophisticated weapons to combat terrorism and gear for hostage rescue. A coup in the Maldives would require saving lives and hostages rather than liberating state from war. Each of the islands was no bigger than a playground floating on the ocean.
Lieutenant Colonel Salih was at the VIP lounge with QRF8 personnel aiding the Marcos force. He called Captain Harris in Fua Mulak, “We require blueprints of SCH, HK and ESC under siege, private places. We have other charts of the airport, dockyard and the rest. It’s too risky to call for blueprints.”
Captain Harris replied from somewhere in Fua Mulak, “I heard the girls who escaped in the amphibious reached Addu safely. Ask them, three girls from three places...private places.”
Soon the girls were transferred to Gan Island and busy providing every detail of information to the Indian troop. Dr Rehene obtained drawings of SCH from Switzerland via electronic mail. Similarly, Madam Serra downloaded charts of the property from contacting her head office in Malé. Daniela could tell about her school. In the hustle, Rehene also got dressed in the insulated suit for an airlift. She had jumped from springboards too but the idea of jumping into the sea from a flying aircraft was wrecking her nerves. However, she got to be back with the patients, the hospital staff and secure her property.
Around 3:30 am, Dr Retkiewicz, freed from his bonds by Fezlynn, called to report that the mercenaries abandoned the hospital. Later again, she got news that there was no sign of them coming back. Rehene went up for boarding the Hercules aeroplane with Madam Serra wearing the chemical suit but in the absolute minute, as matters unfurled that QRF troops taken over the gun in the dockyard and the mercenaries planning escape on the Embraer that landed in Fua Mulak, she decided to quit jumping into the sea and take a sea route. More to the point, the Marine Commandos got their plan only to attack Hotel Korakeli by then.
While at the Finifenmau lounge in Gan, Madam Serra proved to be of great help for the Marcos because she revealed the water networks of the hotels lined in Dandimagu. Commodore Sharma had first asked to look into the gas network and air-conditioning and none of the systems located in the basements and rooftops of the hotels were available without reaching the buildings.
In Fua Mulak there were two estates of the state allocated for tourism while private hotels and motels existed everywhere on the island. One area of the state leased for city hotels was along Dandimagu Street and the beach. The other was Funad and Doondigam beach areas. Each of these areas got large desalination plants connected to the hotels to supply freshwater and drain used water for recycling. The water system projects in the Equator Zone implemented by Germans currently embarked on connecting the suburbs and drains from all over the island. The desalination plant that supplied water to Dandimagu hotels located behind the central village south of Dandimagu Street with pipelines laid to the North Kuli. Combined to the fact that Hotel Korakeli got a fire-extinguishing system to spray freshwater from the ceilings to all floors with certain chemicals added to avoid exposure to high oxidation or damage electronic hardware and to the fact that water supplied from the desalination plant housed in the central village, it made possible to pass toxic or irritant chemicals to stun the residents and occupants unexpectedly at the hotel.
The troop packed with sophisticated weapons, electronic gadgets and hi-tech surveillance devices, also carried concentrated liquids and chemicals that could sufficiently aid such an attempt and that was the plan of action by the Marcos while heading for Hotel Korakeli with Serra.
Major Mustag in turn was looking for toxic warfare in charge of the combined Quick Reaction Forces. He contacted Superintendent Azmyl to send up the Blue Sharks with stinger bullets. Azmyl climbed the Dozor-B sitting on the apron at the airport and raced up Madand hamlet. He drove fast on Malegam Pass to Fiyathoshi in Doondigam where Captain Harris obtained a handful of magazines loaded with 7.62 mm stinger bullets in synthetic rubber cartridges that used an injection system to inject a liquid tranquiliser.
It was past six and he had no knowledge of the Indian parachute jump on Kela Island. He took the cross towards Doondigam School and hurriedly reached the dock in search of Lieutenant Thasneema.
She was kneeling beside Lance Corporal Maseeh who was dead with his right ear lopsided. Strangely she could not tell why he removed his helmet. Only the Blue Sharks who arrived from Malé and QRF3 wore helmets in this war. Seeing the Dozor-B, which she had not seen yet, racing towards the dock on the highway, she almost grasped the MP5 to shoot but remained calm down on her knees. The armoured car reached the cargo platform passing behind the trees in glimpses and then troopers gathered around the vehicle. Someone called on loudspeaker for Lieutenant Thasneema. She got on her heels and ran to the APC.
Superintendent Azmyl sat astonished behind the wheel watching the half-naked girl running up with two guns on her shoulders, in white bra, the diveskin knotted on the waist by its sleeves and the long black hair teasing yellow skin. He saluted initially, “Major is asking for ten snipers to take the gun on the knoll.”
“Some are deployed in search, sir. I can get five around here.”
Thasneema ran up the bulwark platform calling the two Blue Sharks on the embankment, “Amira! Naju! Over here in armour!” She ran to pick her bullet-proof vest and helmet. “Mody! Koì! Utté! Luda!” she called four boys. None of the Blue Sharks were wearing their diveskins knowing it would grow hot every passing minute. They climbed the APC and Azmyl, who normally dated three girls every night, took off up the highway carrying a bunch of naked throng for the major’s call.
Superintendent Azmyl explained, “Here are the ammunitions to use, stinger bullets to tranquilise the hostages on the knoll. Shoot to the legs.” They reached the blown up tank on the highway and side tracked it, next they passed the BTR-4 knocked out of the highway. There they saw the blue colour helicopter touchdown on Funad field, playground lying north of the highway of the size of four football pitches, after an aerial survey and to put down some senior officers. Also coordinated with the forces on the ground, the helicopter arrived to pick some folks in silver suits. Lieutenant Qusay was up there on the field to receive the senior group.
Atoll Chief Hanim arrived on the scene in the police car from the airfield.
Captain Harris sitting behind a home computer at Doondigam house, who got changed to army outfit wearing black shirt and camouflage pants, heavy boots and a red beret tucked under his belt, without a drop of sweat, was the mastermind behind this channelling of information with exact timing and missed nothing from the little locker room.
The APC slowed climbing the narrow lanes or rather corridors of the old settlement area of Hodand hamlet. On the two kilometre drive towards the thundi, on Hodand Pass, low houses, sluttish gates and moss grown walls lined on both sides in close quarters made it equally dangerous of sudden road crossings by the unwarranted islanders and children. Only Azmyl knew about the sluttish crowd he dated. It just happened to be the single driveway along the coast to the length of Hodand hamlet. He stopped the car somewhere close to the knolls about three hundred metres. Even though the lane was straight up to the knolls, the little hills lined in a row to Hodand Pass on the north were hidden behind the houses making it impossible to capture view of the open field while standing in the corridor.
In the past, there were seven raised knolls of sand mounds overgrown with grass about ten metres in height. In the present time only three remained on the island. The Browning machine gun was placed on the largest knoll. These knolls were called havitha. During the archaeological dig by the Norwegian ethnographer, Thor Heyerdahl, the Maldivian authorities lacked wakefulness to protect the findings that belonged to nation’s sovereignty and priceless treasure were taken away to Norway. The mounds disclosed abandoned gods with elongated earlobes and sun-oriented foundations of an era of civilisation before the time of Jesus Christ. The islanders worshipped the sun and various gods until the nation embraced Islam in 1153. Old beliefs, culture and custom still prevailed from tradition. For instance, the most commonly used exclamation to express feeling of hurt or cry of distress, “A’doé!” or “A’déo!” referred to a demon termed ‘Déo’ that native islanders worshipped in the ancient times.
Major Mustag reached the APC in a sprint and slowed pace instantly when he discovered some naked boys and girls climb down from the Dozor-B. Unlike the Cocks, he was dressed immaculately in camouflage kit wearing a red beret with national feathers of red, green and white. Lieutenant Thasneema raised a brief salute projecting two cups of white bras partially hidden in the bullet-proof vest, “Seven divers of the Blue Sharks reporting, sir!”
“You know the drill?”
“Alright, take positions on the rooftops, cover the hostages, when I say, you shoot. Don’t tell me afterwards it’s not stinger you used.” Major climbed the APC and the vehicle slowly rolled forward.
The Blue Sharks continued on foot following a QRF8 soldier to take positions on the rooftops. Some of the ground force climbed the rooftops already while some approached from the airstrip targeting the knoll. Probably some spread in the micro-farm fields and out of sight.
All the houses in this area were either single or two storey buildings however the narrow lanes made it impossible to capture view of the knoll. Boundary walls covered of green creepers and ornamental flowers that grew copiously in the tropics. The house on the north that Thasneema, Koì and Luda climbed was full of red hibiscus flowers. An early morning sun trained on the skin of the brown girl, Private Naju, lying with Corporal Mody on the rooftop of the house to the south. Sergeant Amira and Private Utté took a more difficult position on the ground between Hodand hamlet and the airstrip.
Sixteen tourists held on the havitha were tied separately in packs of five, five and six. Those two five-in-group packs were tied on the rise of the knoll with gunmen behind human shielding. It wasn’t perfect cover but still perfect shield. Those two packs faced Hodand Pass and the airstrip knowing an attack would come from the land now. Just above, on the top of the knoll, the machine gun aimed on the gap opening to Hodand Pass or the corridor between the last two houses in the row. The other group of hostages and the mercenaries were on the lower rise on the northern side of the knoll taking good cover. For the snipers on the north house, it was a difficult angle to shoot the hostages and the rest of the ground force could not even be seen unless they revealed their positions in the micro-farm fields. In the morning sun those three sand mounds appeared vividly green in blench of cool orange rays.
The Dozor-B moved very slowly between the houses, Superintendent Azmyl pulled a white flag with his left hand as it got a left wheel drive. Major Mustag sitting next to him could not see the knoll, neither of them did when the vehicle stopped but the mercenaries saw the left bonnet, the wheel, the red signal and the twin headlights. Indeed, it was Corporal Thakseen of the Cocks, or Company Romeo, in black shirt and red beret, standing inside the vehicle behind the anti-aircraft gun. Instantly, a mercenary sprayed his automatic sending bullets hitting the walls, pavement and the bonnet of the APC, warning not to exceed beyond the line.
Thasneema lay on the slope, north end of the roof edge with her head slightly over the tilt, she could not see the armoured car in progress, but a narrow lane just below. A girl came out of a house with a bottle of a cooking stove to fill oil. A lot of these houses still used oil-burning stoves and in habitual practice, they carried the filling tank or the bottle to the shops to buy oil just like a motorcycle stopped outside a gasoline station to fill up. Nobody kept reserve just in case and the bottle would be turned upside down and dropped into the slot of the stove until it runs dry. Additionally, the shopping procedure in the islands; most of the little retail shops would be closed all the time and if someone wanted to purchase something they would have to enter through the owner’s gate and get the landlady who got a key tied to the girdle on her waist under the libas.
A warden up the lane cried, “Gamarunisa! Get back!” He was supposed to keep watch on the villagers but his mark was few blocks away from the houses to the north.
The girl in blue kandeki wrap turned to face the warden and her legs appeared in the transparent clothing with sunlight passing through. She returned, “I am going to the corner shop to buy fuel for cooking.”
That moment, a mercenary fired into the lane from the micro-farms. A bullet ripped her kandeki wrap between those slim legs and another one hit the bottle creating a sudden purplish glow and glass smashed into smithereens. The girl cried, “Amayaì!” tucked her wrap on the waist and ran back to her house.
Meanwhile, the APC had moved inches up and the mercenaries were able to see the white flag Azmyl was waving. Major Mustag called aloud using the loudspeaker, “Hold up your guns! We ask you to surrender! If you give up and release the hostages, I assure you will be treated differently from the rest.” Major Mustag fired the signal flare into the sky with a pistol in his right hand and continued, “We grant you amnesty, treat well in custody. All you have to do is kill nobody, raise your arms and surrender. I’m sending a negotiator at once.”
There was no time to discuss, instantaneously, as he shot the flare, bullets from the surrounding hit the terrorists and the hostages. Snipers aimed the hostages with stingers knocking them out like live bullets. Some of them dropped from the knoll to the ground. In seconds they were insentient.
The Browning machine gun came live cutting down a boundary wall made of coral rocks and concrete plaster. QRF8 in the micro-farm fields started shooting in full exposure. There were some fourteen mercenaries behind the knoll and the battle took for a while in close quarters face to face in open field. Three MNDF soldiers got killed on the micro-farms and eight were wounded. The APC raced up around the knoll, Corporal Thakseen firing at the enemy, with a cocked up gun that sounded like a cluck–cluck and in a tight black shirt his muscles flung open like a rooster. Four mercenaries rushed to climb down to the beach and they were captured by the troops advancing from the airstrip. They were the only four captured at the knoll, twenty-two mercenaries died here.
The guns rattled and the bullets kept flying until Major Mustag leaned out of the jeep and shouted, “Hold it! Hold it! Hold it!” Suddenly, they knew it was all over. Thasneema rolled on her bac