I followed along behind the units. As we got closer to the site I understood how they were able to carry out training here. There were high mountains that were covered in big trees that were close together.
There were no roads with lanes on either side of the main road, not even logging roads. Google earth had shown that the site was in a valley three or four miles from the main road. Across the ridge line 10 miles to the right there were strip mines.
The combination of heavy tree cover and being in the valley would absorb most gunfire and heaver explosions would be considered from the mining area, unless they were really excessive.
Special Agent Pine had given us one of the 800 MHz radios they were using so I could listen. They were in sight of the other team with the MRAP. A few minutes later the MRAP turned off the main road followed by its SWAT and the West Virginia state police SWAT team.
Then the team I was following fell in behind them. It was a narrow winding road full of potholes and minor wash outs to navigate through and around.
The MRAP had crashed the gate and all of the teams were inside the compound. There was gunfire, a lot of it. I stopped the Suburban at the gate and told everyone to get out. At the back of the truck I handed each of them one of the body armor suits and helped them put it on.
I unlocked the gun rack and handed Ben and Lisa each one of the shotguns, and an M16 to Armie and Wayne.
“I would not want someone to jump out of a hole and you not be able to defend yourself,” I replied.
I was concerned about Ben but put those concerns away when I saw him and Lisa both check the chamber to see if there was a round in it.
“870 riot gun; very nice,” Lisa said. Then she added, “I miss being able to go the range; the desk job takes that away.”
The gunfire slowly died out and there was only one explosion. As we made our way into the building, other SWAT members were checking everything outside.
Ambulances were on the way; I could hear the sirens in distance. There were three that had come with the Petersburg group and they were not enough.
My interest in being here was a firsthand look at the operation that was going on here. I had real questions about the unusual set up of the rows of cars that had been burned and shot up outside in the training area. But first, I needed to check out the inside to see what was going on in there.
Pine informed me that there were ten dead and twenty wounded, none of them SWAT team members. They had twenty prisoners.
“The explosion was a suicide vest. The individual had set it off trying to put it on in a hurry in an office; it only killed him,” Patrick said.
“I have more ambulances and police officers coming. I did not expect this many people to be here. Each of the wounded needs an officer assigned to them through the complete hospital process,” Patrick said.
I nodded my understanding as I watched the last of the healthy ones get searched then secured with flex cuffs on their hands and legs.
The aerial pictures did not do this place justice; it was huge! We started on the left side breaking down locked doors. The first one was an armory holding dozens of shotguns, rifles including AR15s, AK47s, and pistols. There were crates of ammunition.
I wondered how many pictures I could take with my phone as I snapped away.
Under a tarp were 155mm artillery shells; I counted ten and they were missing the fuse. How in the hell did they get these and what were they using them for?
The next room sent chill down my spine. It was a machine shop and they were making Improvised Explosive Devices. On a table were several models that were clearly marked IRGA1 (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Armory #1) they were using as basic models.
There was a crude brass lathe with a 155 shell mounted on it. They were using brass tooling to remove the solidified TNT paste that was the explosive force of the shell. The brass tooling made no sparks to ignite the TNT. There were four empty shells on the floor.
On another bench were a dozen of their copy of the IED but it was heavily modified. One was eight inches in diameter, six inches tall and tapered to a point like a tepee with a titanium plug. The top of the plug was shaped like a cutter. There were two wires protruding out the lower side of it. Another was shorter and not as large in diameter.
On the bench was a pile of blasting caps with the wires lengthened. There were several of these devices in different stages of assembly. In one of these the blasting cap had been installed and fastened with epoxy to the center of the bottom. There was a precision scale with a plastic picture and a tub of the same kind that was by the lathe.
Another very large bench was covered with a sheet and when I removed the sheet, the chills returned.
On the bench were a dozen of those battery powered remote control trucks you see kids playing with. They had been modified with a small cart fastened back of the toy with a little set of wheels to support the very back of it. On the cart was mounted one of the IEDs with a mini camera.
The assembled unit was less than eight inches tall. The antenna for the truck had been bent to trail off to the side. I knew then what this was; a totally new kind of terror that would be used to target our leaders by remote control.
Any SUV, limousine or an airplane parked for even a few minutes would be a death trap for it occupants. The remote control truck could be lowered through a hole cut in the floor of any van or large car and maneuvered into position under its target. Even a car parked on the side of the street would be easy. It could be placed under a car in a parking garage for hours and lie in wait.
I now understood why the titanium plug looked like a shear. It was designed to cut its way through the car floor above it and leave a hole large enough for the explosive force, massive searing heat and deadly gases to blow the car and anyone inside apart.
I doubted my armored Suburban would survive such an attack, or even the presidential limo. The scale had been set to balance at 2 kilos; 4.4 pounds is equal to nine sticks of TNT.
The 155 shell held almost thirty pounds of TNT; that meant that each shell could make seven IEDs. With ten shells still on the crate that was seventy more they could make; how many had they made? Better yet, the 4 empty shells meant that they had made twenty-eight; twelve were on the bench, but where were the rest? Had they used them in testing?
They had played with the threads retaining the plug to allow the TNT to develop just right pressure before blowing the plug out and not blowing the device apart, not that it would make any difference with 9 sticks.
They must have had an engineer design the thing and they certainly had a professional welder or a computer controlled welder that we had not found yet. The welds were that perfect.
This was clearly an advance bomb making shop. No official was safe if these had been sent out to active cells or sleeper cells.
The ATF had a lot of work to do and fast. This was truly a new level of terror. It was going to take careful and complete analysis of all the computers, emails and anything else that could be found to see if any of these had been sent out.
In a box on the wall were DVDs that were marked testing. Hopefully, we could learn from them who made the bombs and how effective they were.
In another room there were several suicide vests. I wondered if Saif had made them or were they a product of this shop? Only time and close analysis would tell. I made sure I took a lot of close up pictures to send to Ben-David.
With the prisoners and injured gone, the evidence collection began in earnest. All the computers were going to Washington with me. As soon as they were loaded, we were heading east. The loading had already started and we would be ready to leave in a few minutes.
I also took one of each IED that was not filled with explosives yet and a couple of the trucks with their controllers. Some in Congress were complaining about the cost of the task force operations. A little shock and awe at the Monday Congressional briefing might change their minds.
Outside I walked down the burnout row of cars and looked closely at them. There were multiple holes in the floor where the devices had been tested. There were even holes in the roof where the titanium plug went through both the floor and the roof.
The lane was so narrow and there was only one or two places that the ambulances could meet and get by that Patrick set up traffic control at the gate and road.
The officer at the road called in, “I have media out here wanting to get in,” he said.
“No media is to be allowed back here,” I replied.
I started receiving reports from Eric; his team had raided the training site and the apartment complex. Tamerl El-Hassan was wounded but in custody. He was already screaming for his lawyers who he had at Camp Delta. If I had my way he would be back at Camp Delta tomorrow.
Who knows, when I get back to Washington I may very well have my way with him.
“Eric, how bad is Tamerl El-Hassan?” I asked.
“Shrapnel, not bad,” he replied.
“He is former Gitmo, here illegally and returned to terrorism; put him on a plane for Gitmo,” I said.
“Can you do that?”
“Nobody told me I couldn’t. You know the story; easier to ask for forgiveness than get permission,” I replied.
“Although it may be wiser to let the Doc act before he goes there; he was the chosen replacement,” I replied then I added.
“Do we have any questions to ask him that may give us any new information?” I asked.
“I can’t think of a single one,” Eric relied.
“There is your answer; send him to Gitmo unless you think him being dead is better,” I replied.
“Agent Pine, photograph everything, bag it, tag it and send it to the FBI forensics lab. Send me a copy of the pictures as soon as you finish.” I said.
We left the site dealing with the road that was in worse shape due to all the heavy trucks.
At the highway the road was blocked by a TV truck, with the reporter giving the officer a hard time.
“Lisa, step out with the shotgun while I see what the problem is,” I said. Lisa was sitting behind me and next to the vertical gun rack.
“What’s the problem?
“WKLA news, there has been dozens of police car and ambulances going in and out, this agent will not let us back there. The public has a right to know,” the reporter said.
“No, you are misinformed; the public does not have the right to know until there is something factual to tell them. When we have that we will call a news conference and you can pass it along. Now move the truck out of the way; you are interfering with a federal officer. Or, I can arrange for you to have a more current story with real life effects,” I said as I pulled my cuffs out.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.