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Bank of Terror


Prologue


   Terrorism has become a global phenomenon, most recently appearing within the boundaries of the United States. Technological advances have made it possible for the terrorist to adopt sophisticated weaponry and techniques. But the weakest links in any terrorist venture are the individual persons involved. Human hands and minds are required for manufacture, placement, and activation of any implement of destruction from a simple roadside bomb to a nuclear device of extreme complexity. In each of the three steps, human error of the slightest degree can be a cause for failure.
   Terrorism is expensive. Since the preferred medium of exchange is cash or some commodity of great value (gold, diamonds, etc.), it is most probable banks are involved in a transfer of any large amount of currency or any other liquid asset, especially so in the digital transfer of funds that involve a circuitous route across international boundaries.
   In Washington, D.C., a cell of Afghan terrorists, armed with a nuclear weapon, conspire to rob the Federal Reserve Bank of New York of its cash reserves.  They abscond with eighteen billion U.S. Dollars with a little over two and one-half million dollars in foreign currency. They plan to fund and curry favor with Mohammed of Babylon, an international negotiator and proponent of peaceful jihad who is rumored to be the Mahdi, the prophesied redeemer of Islam.
 
 Chapter One
Terror in America - The Beginning: foot step Friday, August 8, 2013, 9:00 a.m.

 
   The letters were big, bold, and red: “JOE’S DOGS.” The food truck pulled into a loading zone at the side of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, with the Capitol Dome standing in the background. Joe opened the driver’s door and turned in his seat to slowly slide onto the pavement, ignoring the footstep below the door while warily scanning both ends of the street.
   He opened a door in the rear of the truck, released a drop-down step, and climbed inside. A few moments later, he stuck his head out the back door to scan the approaching traffic. Satisfied there was nothing unusual, he emerged from the back of his truck and using a manual crank opened the side panel next to the sidewalk to reveal a small counter with a serving area and a selection of packaged nuts and crackers.

   Business was good from the time Joe opened the curbside counter until well into the noon hour. Inside the truck, Joe sensed a feeling of pride and accomplishment with this first and only visit to inner city streets in a truck that was identical with one that had been a regular sight around the Capitol for many years.  More than that, Joe was in awe of the thought of an atomic bomb occupying the space where a refrigeration unit normally stood. He shuddered at the possibilities held by that one metal container sitting beneath the interior work counter.
Joe was well-known around the Capitol area, since he had been selling his hot dogs for as long as anyone could remember. The oldies actually remembered his father who had obtained a permit to sell hot dogs and other edibles from his truck and did so until the eighties, when he handed the reins over to his only son.
     Joe had no criminal record, not even a traffic violation. He had a social security number and a driver’s license, but little else to identify him in any way. Today that would change.
     An ill-defined dream of bringing meaning into his life and the lives of five close friends might blossom, after many years of waiting, with jihad emerging from the shadows of their minds to become a reality. 
 
Nine Months Previously
   In the years before and following the Soviet/Afghan War that began in December, 1979, many Afghan families immigrated to the United States as political refugees. Six of those families settled into a small Muslim enclave in the low-rent district near Georgetown in Washington, D.C. They converted a small shop into a mosque.
   Their imam had emigrated from Iraq in the days when the United States was supporting Saddam Hussein. His activities never aroused any suspicion, even after September 11, 2001. Nobody suspected that he was occasionally visited by a recognized militant—the imam of a mosque in Newark, New Jersey. During the course of the Newark imam’s visits, he collected the names of six men who might be interested in becoming active jihadists.
 
December, 2012
   The Newark imam called Joe, the recognized leader of the six, and arranged a first meeting with an agent in a diner close to Joe’s apartment. “He will introduce himself as ‘Essam’ and will know you by your first name only. You should converse in English to avoid scrutiny by other customers.”


*****

Joe was clean-shaven and in the casual attire of a blue-collar worker. He sat in a booth drinking coffee where he was approached by a slightly older man of dark complexion and jet-black hair who was clean-cut and dressed in a dark blue business suit. Without speaking, he eased into the seat across the table from Joe.
   “I am Essam and you must be Joe.” After an affirmative nod by Joe, Essam wasted no time. Leaning forward and lowering his voice, he said, “I understand that you’re interested in jihad.”
Joe looked down into his cup of coffee, slowly turning it in circles with his fingertips as he thought, How much can I trust this guy? What is he bringing to the table?
Then looking into Essam’s face, “My five friends and I have discussed the possibility on occasion.” He picked up his cup and slowly sipped the steaming coffee.
   Essam was quick to answer, “Our freedom fighters here in the United States consist of several groups such as yours. We’re interested in your ease of access and movement in the Capitol area. Would you be interested in learning how to use that advantage in jihad?”
   Joe sat his coffee cup on the table and looked about cautiously. He finally returned the gaze of his visitor, confident they had not attracted the attention of nearby customers who were reading the paper, talking on a cell phone, or engaged in a serious conversation of their own.        “I’d be interested in hearing what you have to say.”
   “Then I’ll get right to the point. I can get you a nuclear bomb; you might find it useful in your quest.”
   Joe’s eyes widened with a look of stunned disbelief. He had never considered such a possibility. He was silent for several seconds while questions flew through his mind. Finally he asked, “What do you propose that we do with such a weapon?”
   Their voices lowered and the distance between their faces lessened. A long conversation ensued with Joe occasionally sitting back in his seat in thought, only to lean forward again to pursue the subject further. They talked for almost an hour. They eventually reached an agreement on a method to use the bomb as a threat to gain an objective rather than indiscriminately detonate it for the most damage possible. Washington, D.C. would be the target area—at least, for the bomb.
   Joe continued, “Regardless of what we do with the bomb, there is the certainty we will need to leave the country, or go to jail. What will happen to the bomb when we leave, and where can we go for refuge? Who will control what happens?” Questions piled up in his mind. He could not ask all of them. And the thought of leaving his home for some unknown destination was more than he bargained for.
   “If you do as we have agreed, I will manage the bomb question after you and your men with your families are out of reach of U.S. authorities. I will see to your location in a safe home in a country not at war. I will give you a laptop and a cell phone with an instruction page for both so you will always have access for consultation with me. I will be available at all times to help with your plans.”
   Joe looked into the eyes of Essam. “I must trust you in this matter, as you must trust me.” Joe could not resolve all the doubt about Essam in his mind, but he believed his team of six Afghans would succeed.                
   In the cause of jihad, their gain would be directed to the Mahdi, the man who would come as Islam’s prophesied redeemer to establish a worldwide Islamic state. Joe thought, Some believe the Mahdi will come as a man of peace. Others believe he will wage a war of jihad against all infidels; those who do not convert to Islam will be slain. And believers who die in the struggle will be guaranteed a place in Paradise. I know of Mohammed of Babylon and believe him to be the Mahdi. He claims to be a man of peace, but surely he knows that a war must be waged.
   No matter his thoughts, unresolved questions lingered, but the plan to assist the Mahdi remained a resolute conviction.
   Essam’s thoughts were how to maintain control of the bomb. I don’t know the capabilities of these Afghans who have had no terrorist training. But the plan is simple enough, and if I keep a close eye on them, they should be able to carry it off. 

*****

   Essam did not reveal the source of the bomb to Joe. Now that the bomb was ready to be utilized, it was time to call on the technician who built it. He scheduled a meeting with Khalid Abdijni, who was a resident of Newark. Khalid was the first terrorist imported by a recently activated organization dedicated to worldwide terrorism. The organization was not yet known by the CIA or the NSA, but that would soon change.
   “Khalid, we need to talk.”
   “When and where?”
   Essam knew he must be careful with his choice of words. He also knew Khalid would understand. “We can meet Wednesday after you get off work, in your employee parking lot. I have some new friends with the same interests as yours. They are ready to accept and activate your science plan we have placed in the New York storage garage.
   “Are you ready to install it in a truck and set up the technical requirements to maintain surveillance until completion of the project?”
   “I can do that. What else do you need and how will I be involved?” Khalid looked on the bomb as his “baby” and needed assurance that its potential would be fully utilized—even if it meant detonation that would take his life.
   “Nothing that can’t wait until Wednesday. I will be in contact with you and them during this operation—you should not have contact with them.”
   Khalid replied, “That will be no problem. You can depend on me.”

*****

   Joe and his five friends gathered around the dining room table, sipping from cups of hot tea and nibbling on candied dates; talking in muted tones. They were a diverse group. One was a schoolteacher, one a fireman, two were skycaps at Dulles International Airport, and one was a technician for a medical laboratory. Each had been taught since childhood about the concept of a world with all people joined together in the Islamic faith, although what jihad actually meant for each individual was never discussed in detail.
   Joe gently tapped on the table surface with his knuckles. He told them of his meeting with the agent, Essam and the availability of a nuclear bomb. “Over the past two years, the component parts necessary to construct a nuclear bomb have been smuggled into the United States. Those elements have been assembled and delivered to a New York City storage site for installation in a delivery vehicle, which will be a replica of my hot dog truck.
    “We discussed the possibility of using the threat of a nuclear explosion to gain an objective and then have the bomb for another mission. Essam stressed when the bomb explodes, it is gone.
   “I mentioned to him my personal preference to provide support for the Mahdi. He accepted that concept and said he would help make the necessary arrangements overseas. He would leave it up to us to manage the stateside operation, but he would be available to help us with our plans.”
   The two skycaps looked at each other. One nodded to the other who maintained his fixed gaze and said, “How can we be sure that our chosen one is actually the Mahdi?”
   The other skycap, whose name was Thabit Mansor, nodded support and then added, “There is no better way to make believers of infidels than to destroy lives and property that have great meaning for those whom we will attack.” He sat back in his chair, looking from one to the other, almost daring them to say differently. 
   There was a long silence before Joe responded. “I’m not sure those who will trust us with a nuclear bomb for jihad have consulted the Mahdi. From my conversation with Essam, I sensed there was a more far-reaching plan than a one-time detonation for destruction of life and property. He mentioned we might want to use the bomb to rob America of its wealth.”
   As conversation erupted around the table, the schoolteacher gained the attention of the others. “I believe whatever we plan; our objective should be to provide the Mahdi with as much support as possible for him to peacefully gain followers of Islam around the world. Peace appeals to me much more than subjugation by the destruction of war. I sincerely hope that is the same feeling as the Mahdi’s. How do we contact the Mahdi and find answers to our questions?”
Silence hovered over the table again for several seconds as each member of the cell eyed the other for some sign of agreement. Playing the role of a terrorist for a peaceful enterprise was difficult to grasp, but no objection was voiced. One skycap nodded in agreement. Thabit showed no signs of preference and by virtue of his silence seemed to give agreement. Everyone sat back, relieved this first major decision had been made, but only if the Mahdi was a man of peace.
   Thabit, quietly muttered to his skycap friend, for him alone to hear, “We must agree for now, but we also must continue to look for a way to detonate this bomb on American soil. We also must find the one who can build a nuclear bomb.” His friend said nothing.
   Joe said, “Such a noble endeavor to support the Mahdi should make us all proud of our patience and present great opportunity, but what would we wish to gain to offer the Mahdi?”
   The schoolteacher spoke again, “If it’s something we might wish to give the Mahdi in his peaceful striving for jihad, I can’t think of anything more useful than financial support. I believe we should center our efforts on gaining as many dollars as possible to give to the Mahdi. That also seems to be in line with the objective of bringing financial ruin to America.” There were murmurs of general agreement.  Discussion continued for another hour. Questions floated through the air.
   “What if the Mahdi is not a man of peace?”
   “Who will have the ability to detonate the bomb?”  
   “Will we and our families be able to escape the explosion?”
   “We must leave the country. Where will we go?”
   “How will we provide for our families after leaving the States?” 
   Joe yawned. “It’s getting late. We must not do anything that would raise even one eyebrow. We’ll meet here on Saturday morning, three weeks from today. I believe we can decide what should be done with only a few meetings.”

*****

   Thabit, the reluctant skycap, could not resolve his gnawing urge to cause damage of great magnitude to America. And his skycap friend was not agreeable; he did not join Thabit’s proposed venture, but he did not interfere. Thabit questioned the Newark imam about other possibilities; he was given a phone number. When he called the next day, a meeting was arranged. His five friends in Georgetown were not included.