The four men standing in the cabin of the converted fishing boat took a final look round at the sophisticated technology on the console in front of them. Gone was the old radio equipment, now replaced with state of the art computer equipment, whilst through the porthole, under a huge tarpaulin, they could see the bulky outline of a rocket launcher on the fore deck. Two large inflatables were stored on the aft deck. The language spoken by three of the men was a Somali dialect, which the fourth man, a native Moroccan, couldn’t understand.
‘Better you speak the English,’ he suggested, wiping his greasy hands down his worn boiler suit.
‘Sorry, Captain, we were saying that no-one would recognise this old boat. I assume the engine room has had the same overhaul?’
Although dressed in the traditional flowing, plaid kilt called a ma’awi, with a western shirt, this Somali spoke perfect English, his accent refined during his years at University in Oxford. On his head he wore a colourfully embroidered koofiyad. All four men were dark skinned, with unruly black, frizzy hair. The three Somalis once again lapsed into their native tongue and their colleague raised an eyebrow. ‘I ask if there is, er, space for the advanced party on board?’ said another of the Somalis, moving towards the cabin door.
‘It will be a bit tight,’ the first man informed them, ‘but we’ll have to manage. It will only be for a few days, hopefully. The other boat, with the rest of our colleagues, will rendezvous with us once we reach the target area.’
He looked out of another porthole at the lights of Rabat harbour across the bay. The forty-foot fishing boat was moored in a small inlet of the River Bou Regreg, to the east of the city, away from the prying eyes of the port authorities and nearer to the neighbouring city of Sale. Due to silting, the actual port of Rabat is no longer viable but it remains as a commercial centre and Rabat City is the capital of the Kingdom of Morocco. As he gazed out to sea, the man thought how appropriate it was that they had chosen Rabat as their home port for this operation; for years Barbary pirates had used the twin cities as base ports for launching attacks on Atlantic shipping until Rabat had been attacked by Austria in 1829 after an Austrian ship had been lost. The Somali pirates usually operated out of their home port of Harardhare on the coast of Somalia’s Puntland region. This would be the first time they had ventured so far from home, but it was necessary if they were to up their game and achieve the higher rewards this operation promised. Their previous targets had been the monolithic super tankers plying their cargos of crude oil across the Gulf of Aden and through the Suez Canal. Their new target was altogether different. It had been thoroughly researched and nothing had been left to chance. Rabat had been chosen as it left a distance of only two hundred nautical miles to their rendezvous with the target. Dates and times had been checked and re-checked and everything was in place now that the converted fishing boat had passed their inspection. The relevant authorities would never imagine that such an audacious plan could ever be conceived. Moving away from the porthole, the man spoke in precise English:
‘Very well, gentlemen, all is ready. I think it is time we
contacted the rest of our team with final details.’