I had been with the al-Thawra unit for six months, mostly operating their digital radios, sending messages in Arabic to confuse the Russians, translating letters from our helpers.
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Sometimes I went with the fighters on ambushes, where I would jump out with the rest of the fighters to spray the cars with gunfire.
I know my leaders were watching me and checking me. Once they gave me a very important message to translate from English to Arabic and gave me a very cool radio phone to transmit it directly to some radio station very far away. For some reason one of my leaders checked the radio for hours after I carried out the assignment.
I tried to be straight in everything I did. I shot straight, never in to the sky, I always answered straight, walked straight, never sitting down to rest.
I must have done something right. Just when I learned to enjoy living in the mountains, freezing because we could not light fires so helicopters would not find us, one day Rashid told me that I was to go on a very special operation where I would be a very important asset. He didn’t say anything else and I didn’t ask when and what.
Several weeks afterwards we started late at night and we walked only at night, until we got to really high mountains. They told me this was the operation.
We went over mountain passes that had no roads, it was so hard and cold and snowy that we made our trek during the day only. Finally, we started walking down slope, and I heard that we were in Pankisi Valley, a valley in Georgia where many Chechens lived.
Our leader told me that we were going to surprise American advisors that the Georgian government invited there to teach anti-terrorist tactics. I would be very important, I would be an interpreter during interrogations of captured Americans. Knowing our al-Thawra traditions, after the interrogations the prisoners would probably be slaughtered to pieces.
We were walking through the woods over a refuge camp that was between us and the highway that the enemy used to travel. It was probably the beginning of the actual operation.
It was late at night, we had the whole night ahead of us. We were going to a clearing between two wooded hills when shooting started out of the blue. I thought it was thunder in the mountains, which happens in bursts. But it became the real gunfire, the thunder, the flashes, it all coming closer.
I heard bullets as they wheezed towards us, and I saw my fellow fighters charge ahead but drop all around me. Never seen this before.
I saw flashes of fire surrounding me. I thought I was going to be killed. I swung my stubby Kalash to lunge into fight till they mow me down or I run out of ammo, but I hit something in the dark and tumbled down a slope. I remember rolling over my dead friends.
I heard a lot of Americans screaming everywhere. I didn’t know what was happening. I was tumbling till I got caught by one who screamed, “Another live one!”
I pretended not to understand English.