The Week Off

Entry by: percypop

27th December 2017

Ahmed scrutinised the young man squatting among the debris, sifting through the heap of spent cartridges. The scavenger wore no uniform, just old khaki trousers and a tee shirt. He had a camera slung round his neck and from time to time, took a photo of one of the casings.

It was a hot day in Raqqa and Ahmed wiped his face with his shermagh. Nothing else moved in his field of fire, so his gaze returned to the young foreigner scrabbling among the remnants of the building which had been hit several times in the last attack.

Bored and impatient, he trained his sniper rifle on the stooping figure. Two hours had passed and not a single shot fired. Was it worth taking the shot and revealing his position to any of the government troops surrounding his perch? For three months, he had survived the onslaught by the Syrian army. Even the Russian Special Forces had not penetrated this last stronghold in the rundown area.

A sound behind him made him turn sharply and he grabbed his 9mm pistol. A bearded face poked through the gap.
"Salaam!" It was Abbas, his loader, with a pack of ammunition. Crawling up to the window, he peeked out at the scene.
"What's the infidel doing? Is he a madman?"
Ahmed shrugged. "Who knows, foreigners come here to show off."
"But what good are spent casings? Does he think they are some use?"
They watched as the young man sifted through the dusty refuse, collecting a selection of different calibre shells.
"Shoot him!"
Ahmed shook his head. "No! One dead kaffir unarmed and we get a shitload of fire down on our heads. It's not worth it!"
The moment passed and the man disappeared.
Jim Arnold hefted the sack of cartridges onto the table. Some of the lighter ones spilt out in a tinkling cascade and rolled across the surface.
“I bet these are Chinese!"
The other man at the table grunted as he examined an item under a microscope but he said nothing. They had both been in Syria for six months and were sick of the constant danger and squalor which ruled their lives.
Jim joined the CAR directly from university; he wanted to do something to help in the terrible carnage of the Syrian War. Julio was a Spanish graduate who came to Syria with Medicine sans Frontier but switched to CAR when they withdrew.

The months took their toll on them both. Examining ammunition, even if discarded, was dangerous, Two of the team had lost limbs from unexploded munitions. Apart from the living conditions, fear was ever present; it never left, like an evil tumour intent on destroying you.

"You haven't logged it yet." The man at the microscope spoke at last but kept his eyes on the instrument. "You always leave it to last and someone has to remind you!"

"Ok! OK! Give me a break. It's me out there in the sun with those bastards. I need a rest."
He slumped down in the shade of the canvas cover and drank water from a plastic bottle. Presently, he turned to face the computer set up in the corner. Cables ran from the tent to a generator outside and the pale screen glowed with life. There was an image of the markings on the base of a shell.
"Have you traced the RPG /122 yet?"
"Not had time, but sure to be that Chinese shipment from October '14."

Conflict Arms Research stayed in Syria even after the spurt of fighting when the Russians came to the aid of the Syrian Government. Most NGO's had pulled back but these volunteers stuck it out. To identify and trace back the sources of firearms and ammunition was a vital but unseen arm of exposing the powers behind the combat.
"What do they do?" Osman el Akbar stared at the sniper. "Do I have to tell you to eliminate a kaffir? Why do you come to me at this time? Don't you see what has to be done?"
"Yes, but listen, they do not carry guns and they scavenge among the rubbish. I never saw this before."

El Akbar rubbed his eyes, this was the second day of an attack and he longed for a minute of quiet or rest.
"If they come again, send for me."
Ahmed nodded and went back to the sniper hole.

Nothing emerged within his field of fire so he sat back, resting his head against the bricks. In the background, intermittent gunfire chattered among the ruins but it was simply everyday life and had lost significance.
He dreamed of his life in Iran, before the Caliphate called for volunteers; family life with wife and children. Was it ever going to be the same? He pushed the thought away. If Allah (peace be upon Him) willed it.

A sound jolted him to life. Down in the ruins someone was stepping quietly among the debris. He squinted through the spy hole. In the rubble was the same young European who had been there earlier. Again, he was handling the discards. He looked about him furtively like a thief.
Ahmad kicked his loader to life. "Get el Akbar" and the man crept away wriggling through the dust to avoid sound.

When the commander arrived, he wore just a pair of combat trousers and his field boots were undone, bare headed and eyes heavy with sleep.
"What is it now?" His voice in whispers, rasping and impatient.
Ahmed pointed down to the area below. The pale figure was stooping to check the 50mm shell-casings lying among the dust.
"Is he armed?"
"No. just as before, he carries a sack."

El Akbar frowned, life now was a desperate attempt to escape the trap built around his fighters, the chance of escape dwindling fast.What was the will of the Caliphate? To surrender or to carry on the fight?

He let out an exasperated sigh. "Kill him!"

The figure of the young man leapt as the hi-velocity bullet drove through his body. He spun round and for moment his eyes seemed to look upwards as if seeking the sunlight or some message from above. Then he stumbled and fell face down among the cartridges.

Foot Note.

Conflict Arms Research (C.A.R.) plays a vital role in identifying the source of illegal arms shipments to various guerrilla organisations throughout the world and to the ISIS Forces fighting in Iraq and Syria.
With its research, The UN is able to bring pressure on those States fuelling armed conflict with supplies of weapons and ammunition.
It is a volunteer organisation.