In the northern tribal regions of the
Republic of Derbaran, a small town
began to stir as the pink light of dawn
colored the desert mountaintops in the
distance. Bakers and merchants,
midwives and school teachers emerged
from their mud brick homes to begin their
day. As always, they threw nervous glances at
the razor wire and concrete compound of the
Derbaran military depot that squatted below a yellow
banner just beyond the village. The coexistence was an uncomfortable one; the Derbaran
government had little love for the tribal minorities in the area.
Cries of alarm rose from the men
stationed at the depot when a column
of tanks and trucks crested a rise. They
flew green banners, the colors of the
National Independence Union, the rebel
coalition of minority tribes. But these were not
poor peasants with cheap rifles. The Derbaran
soldiers scrambled in panic as the NIU tanks rained
explosive rounds on the ammo depot, shattering concrete
bunkers and crushing soldiers beneath a hail of rubble.
NIU trucks disgorged scores of men who peppered the defensive positions with small arms fire.
When it was over, the only sound
came from the crackle of flames and
the screams of wounded and dying
Derbaran soldiers. The villagers
slowly emerged from hiding. They
gasped when they recognized the man
who climbed from the lead tank and
stood on the turret to address them.
Even in this small village, the televisions
in the tea houses and shops had shown
his face many times. He was General Ikram Karmali, decorated officer of the Derbaran military
and military advisor to the President. The pride of the Derbaran military had become a rebel.