Operation: Snow Leopard

The air was ice-dry under the coal-black Siberian sky; his ears were blistered from his snow-mask . He glanced at his watch, illuminated by the bright winter moon, only five seconds until an amber glow fell over his camp. The camouflage had worked well so far. He wasn’t worried. He was a professional. He clicked a button in his right hand. The lens on his scope snapped shut. He knelt in a prone position looking down waiting for the security light to wash over him. 

He waited thirty minutes in his camp, set behind two rocks jutting out the earth like death-grey battlements. He took the time to check his tactical backpack and weaponry, it was a habit. A habit that had saved him several times before. Once he was happy he had everything he’d need he took one last look at the map of the compound. He decided on going through the front gate. It didn’t have to be complicated. 

There was a slight wind carrying drifting snow. Right on schedule the lamp went out. The clink of heavy boots on metal, it took the guard between two and three minutes to walk through the wrought iron archway and into the warmth of the safehouse. He’d spent three nights doing recon. He was going to wait another couple of days before the assault but a call came through from Deputy Director Gorschev. It had to be done tonight. 

He remembered the mission briefing back in the mouldy room they had designated Operational Command. A nondescript base used by the GRU to train their agents. It was the closest to Ali bin Yadeen’s Snow Leopard’s compound. The Snow Leopard, a beautiful creature now tainted with the association to the jihadi terrorist he had been tasked with killing. He is responsible for the death of over fifty Russians and is a recruiter and trainer of deep-cover terror cells. He fled Afghanistan and has been running ever since from Russian and the US.

At the sound of a slamming door, he crouched and made a dash to the perimeter wall, then sticking close to it, followed it four hundred metres to the wrought iron gate that was never closed. Arrogance was a great instiller about false senses of security. And there was nothing more arrogant than a terrorist leader who’d managed successful attacks against the Motherland, he thought.

He walked through the iron gate. There were no guards on duty at this time. He still clung to the wall, keeping his trigger-finger ready on his rifle. The compound to the left consisted of two single-storey, opposing L-shaped buildings, one lit and filled with noise (which was closest), the other still and silent black. To the right was a large metal barn, which was also night-dark. He approached carefully, there was no front covering but he saw several vehicles including a tractor, bullet-proofed 4×4 and a couple of snowmobiles. Only the 4×4 and one of the snowmobiles were open with keys; he cut the fuel lines on everything else. He had planned on the 4×4 when he saw it pulling onto the  Returning to the rear of the 4×4, he unzipped and climbed out of his arctic camouflage ghillie suit then pulled up the tactical backpack on to the back seat. Leaving the mask on he laid out his kit. A block of C4 with some blast caps and receivers were ready to go. His SR-3 rifle was in good order, he no longer needed the scope. The GSH -18 pistol slid into its holster with ease. Quickly, he fastened his ammo pouches to his body, picked up his rifle hanging it over his shoulder and held the C4 and blast caps in his hand. He took one final item from the bag and placed it in his pocket. 

He crouched and left the barn, heading for the safety of the wall at the far end. He stood upright and made his way around the perimeter until he was at the wall closest to the front of the compound and started laying C4, blast caps and receivers. He set two on the wall, crept around the corner, placed one adjacent to the door frame and another further along under a shuttered window. He heard singing in a language he didn’t understand but one he’d heard years ago in the Bora Bora mountains. The scent of mutton, spices, hashish and cigar smoke was permeating through the bottom of the door. He thought they probably never reckoned they’d be found especially out here. But, their time had come. 

He heard the distinct rattle of the door, quickly he darted up and around a corner, staying out of sight. A man in robes was beating his chest, walking to the darkened building. He watched as the bearded man slid the door open, entered and left with two girls, both shrieking, gutturally in two different languages; Russian and German. He spat at them as he dragged them violently by the shackles on their arms. They cried and cried, the look of impending threat and dread etched into their hollow faces. This complicated things. He couldn’t kill these girls along with the jihadis. 

He ran back to the 4×4 and took two pepper bombs and two concussion grenades from the tactical backpack. He heard violent voices in the building. He ran back to the shuttered window and tapped on it five times and ducked. No response. Then another three taps and he heard metal scrape against wood he ducked quickly and watched as more light escaped out into the world. He pulled the pins from the pepper bombs and concussion grenades, stood up quickly then shot out the window watching as splinters of glass painted the face of the man looking back at him. He threw in the grenades and ran to the wall next to the door. 

He held his rifle level to his body. The way he’d trained near Averyeko. It was muscle memory. His finger was twitching on the trigger. He heard the door heave open and two men ran out in single file, covering their eyes and choking. They took bullets through their necklines. Their scarlet spilled out, staining the purity of the fresh snow. Then another man this time using the door for cover, ran out again. His eyes were covered by one of his hands but he held a revolver in his other hand. As the man twisted his arm to take the shot, a bullet plunged through his elbow, the power of the subsonic round mangling the tendons. He fired another bullet through the man’s cheekbone. Another one down. By his count he only had another five to get rid of. Nobody was coming out of the front door for a while but as he approached, his boot made a crunch in the snow alerting the terrorists to his proximity. 

He heard the footsteps from two men get closer to the door. One fired a couple of tracer shots out into open air warning him their guns were ready. Their training camps must be poor these days, he thought as they jumped out back-to-back their AK 47’s, trained at chest level. The terrorist facing him looked full of spite and hatred, then had the blank look of death in his eyes as a bullet went through his forehead. The other man spun around and fired a shot that he felt nip the outside of his knee, then nothing. He thought he was being toyed with for a second then realised this next victim’s AK was jammed. He let a glint of a smile wash over his face as he approached the man shot out his legs then his head. There was only the leader and his bodyguards left. They never left his side. He heard shouts in different languages until he heard a shout in Russian saying they would pay him to go away. He can also have the girls. They are willing girls. He heard the Russian girl tell him he was dead; then, he heard a slap.

The two bodyguards walked out with the slight young girls who looked even worse close-up. He spoke to them in both their languages asking what had happened to them as his main target stepped out with a holdall. It was grim listening. Kept as slaves. They had been physically and sexually abused. He said he would get them help immediately and asked for their trust. He stepped back a few feet, telling the terrorist to release the girls saying his vehicle was hidden behind the compound walls. His gun was aimed straight at the main target. He knew they’d release the girls. These men were cowards; they were in hiding. Being a martyr for Allah didn’t appeal. He stepped back further, waited a minute then the girls stumbled past him. He asked in English what was in the holdall. The target replied with ‘five million dollars US, give or take ‘. He started moving his body to his left, the bodyguards and the bin Yadeen followed suit, keeping the space between them. He watched smiles cross their faces as they realised they were close enough to retreat into the house and if he stormed it again they’d easily take him out. He asked for the holdall and as Bin Yadeen threw it, slim bricks of paper money slipped out. He didn’t attempt to catch it, that gave them another advantage. The three men were speaking in the language he couldn’t understand. Not glancing at the cash, he screamed at them to go back inside the lodge. They retreated, back and inside. The last bodyguard heaved the door shut. It was almost silent. They had a perfect sniper position from the window. He heard the instruction to take it up. Then an explosion. A big explosion. 

The snow was disturbed by chunks of wood, burning money, bricks and concrete. There was a fire in the middle of the freeze. He heard wailing and moaning from three voices. He saw limbs detached from bodies. He approached the debris, a mental map of the interior in his mind. He found the body of bin Yadeen tangled in brickwork. Saw the tears streaking through the dirt on his face. Heard the gurgle come from his throat. Then heard the bullet from his SR-3 shatter his skull as it travelled through his head from the optic nerve. 

He moved all of his kit into the front of the 4×4. You could never be too certain of your safety. It started immediately, the engine purring as he pulled out of the compound onto the gravel track. The two young girls were shivering with shock and cold next to the wall. He slit open his gilly suit to make a blanket as best he could, then turned the heating up as much as possible. He had a couple of protein bars and the remains of a bottle of vodka which he gave them. He heard them devour the food and within ten minutes of being on the road, heard the girls sleeping.

He drove back to Operational Command, the 4×4 handled the snowy conditions well and it had a good top speed. The journey was quiet, apart from the restlessness of his passengers in their sleep. He had to take them back to Command. They’d be questioned about anything they’d heard. He knew they’d never be able to give anything of value. But you never knew, especially with trauma. They would, at the very least, be reunited with their families and be given a medal by the state. And some money. The Politburo would use it as a positive story between Russia and Germany. His name would be kept out of it at the very least. 

Artyom Garin, the Snow Leopard killer.

Thanks for reading the first story in the Artyom Garin series. I hope you liked it.

Take it Easy

Paul