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0948 13 AUG 2002; NUBIAN DESERT, SUDAN

CAMP ALI



(Taubah, Sura 9:5)

Fight and slay the infidels wherever you find them,

and seize them, beleaguer them,

and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war.


Fifteen-year-old Bassam Amin breathed slowly and deeply through a plastic straw. He'd become oblivious to the burning, itching discomfort of being buried under hot sand for hours. His secret was meditation.

Bassam's meditation had nothing to do with the Koran, nor the teaching of the holy men. He concentrated, instead, on remembering the belly dancer he'd seen on Egyptian television two years ago. His mind painted her every contour, her every expression, her every mesmerizing motion. Every smile, every wink, every toss of her hair. Every jiggle of flesh and every wag of the hips. He rotated her image to view her at all angles, stripping away her costume and dressing her back up again.

He'd never met the woman. He'd never met any woman who wasn't married, betrothed to another, or of too high a station to concern herself with an impoverished Palestinian bastard. With the changes happening in his body and mind over the last couple years, the wonders he'd never tasted became all the more alluring. Females were all he could think of sometimes.

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