Two stories I’ve been following collided today. I had a chance meeting with Fred Willis the other day. Fred’s the young mercenary I met back in May. He looked tired and 5 years older than the last time I’d seen him. Lord knows what he’s encountered since our last conversation.
I told him I was tracking a story about the arms embargo and possible cooperation between the UFLL and the APR. He laughed off that notion but then he directed me to a café in the country. A place called Mike’s. Told me to look for a woman there, a merc.
Though you might think so, female mercs aren’t that uncommon. So it was no surprise when I arrived at Mike’s to find a young woman sitting at a corner table wearing cargo pants, t-shirt, and combat webbing. Her name was Nasreen (she refused to give her last name). She sat with her legs crossed and hands folded in her lap; her fingers bore faded traces of henna. Her gaze betrayed the years growing up close to war. I suspect she fell into this business because it’s the only one she knows. She had the most intense eyes. They stared without judgement or expectation, but they conveyed an intimidating cool. I knew to tread lightly.
I told her Fred had sent me and she invited me to sit. I tried easing into my questions with some light chat but she cut that short, “What do you need?” She spoke in clear, precise English with a Persian accent; Tajik specifically.
I told her my suspicions that the APR and UFLL were arranging a weapons shipment together. “That is true. A Chinese freighter is heading for Angola as we speak.”
She explained that leaders of both factions had pooled resources and struck a deal with the Chinese government for a full freighter of small arms and ammunition. It was due to arrive in Angola and then be transported through the mountains into the country. Likely through the West.
I raised my doubts that such a large shipment could make it past the AU and she agreed, but then she said the most interesting thing, “There’s always the Jackal”.
Nasreen refused to elaborate. In fact, I suspect she felt she’d said too much already. She cut our chat short and waved me off. Our conversation was over. I left Mike’s feeling I’d been handed a major scoop – if only half a scoop.
And as if mocking my confusion, I spotted more Jackal graffiti on my way out of the café.
What could she mean? Is the Jackal helping to bring the shipment in? Is he working with the AU to stop the shipment? I had nothing. And still, my number one question loomed: Who is the Jackal?