The Seychelles Affair by Mike Hoare - An awesome book about a coup in Seychelles that went horribly wrong. Seychelles is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Kenya. Mike Hoare, the author, was a legendary British mercenary who had fought many unconventional wars in Congo and elsewhere. After his heroics in Central Africa, Mike Hoare or Mad Mike as he was lovingly known, settled down in South Africa. In 1981, some politicians from Seychelles, who were exiled in UK after an earlier coup, contacted Mike to stage a coup so that they could regain power. Mike was always game for such things. But, money was a problem. So, they kept cutting corners till the whole project started looking very risky. But, Mad Mike was not someone who would give up.
They went ahead with the plan. All went well till they reached Mahe airport in Seychelles on a chartered flight.
The group of mercenaries had concealed their weapons in the baggage. It was hard to detect. But, may be due to their bad luck, one mercenary's luggage was thoroughly checked and when his secret cargo was about to be exposed, he assembled his gear quickly and started shooting to escape. That's it. The coup had begun much sooner and in a totally disorganized fashion.
By this time, Mike and rest of his gang had cleared customs and were waiting outside in a bus to go their safe house. One other mercenary came out yelling to get ready for action.
These men were battle hardened special forces operators. In no time, they got their luggage out of the bus, assembled their weapons and took control of the airport.
Seychelles, at that time, did not have a proper military. It was slowly aligning with socialist countries and there was a small contingent of Tanzanian soldiers in a barrack next to the airport. Those soldiers engaged these mercenaries in an occasional fire exchange.
Mike and his gang of mercenaries had taken the control of the airport and air traffic control tower. While all this confusion was going on, an Air India jet was on its way from Zimbabwe. It was on its decent to make its scheduled stop for refueling at Mahe, Seychelles. Mike wanted to deny landing permission for this aircraft because he knew it risked getting blown up for no reason due to the intermittent fire exchange between his team and the Tanzanian soldiers.
But, the Air India plane had already descended and did not have enough fuel to regain the altitude and fly somewhere else to refuel. So, they let it land. The Air India crew did not know anything about what was happening on the ground. It was a miracle that the plane did not crash and explode. First there was an abandoned army truck placed right on the run way to thwart the attempt of mercenaries from taking off using some other aircraft.. Secondly bullets and grenades were being exchanged. Somehow the plane touched down and pilots got out to see what was going on. Only when they were met by the mercenaries they became vaguely aware of what was going on.
Situation had gotten worse for Mike and his men. Their plan had been totally screwed up. Although Seychelles did not have much army, the element of surprise which was so crucial for a successful coup had been lost and the chances of staging a successful coup was dwindling minute by minute.
Mike Hoare and his team treated the Air India pilots and the crew well. They explained them the situation.
The plane had landed somehow but it was going to be extremely tricky and risky to take off because it was going to be an easy target for rocket propelled grenades or some other kind of armament of Tanzanian soldiers who were getting frustrated by Mike's mercenaries who were holding the fort well.
Mike used his connections and called up the badly shaken government and ensured that Air India flight would be refueled and allowed to fly out without being hit by Tanzanian artillery. At least this was what he was promised to him by someone important in the government.
When the Air India flight was ready to leave, some mercenaries who did not see any hope out of this situation, wanted to leave on the same plane. Air India crew was only grateful to fly them anywhere they liked. It seems like they were on some kind of "situation induced high". Here was a situation close to plane being hijacked but hijackers were so friendly. So, pilots got too friendly too.
Mike Hoare was not very keen to leave without finishing the business. He was still confident that they could pull of the coup off because he knew poorly trained Tanzanian soldiers were no match to his band of special forces veterans. But, most of his gang was not willing to continue with the operation which was a disaster from the get go.
Air India pilots offered to fly them all to Bombay, plane's original destination. Mike and his team laughed off that idea because they were not going to get any good treatment there. They would have been tried for hijacking and thrown into jail for rest of their lives. That was during 80s. No diplomatic relations between India and apartheid South Africa. Most of the mercenaries were the citizen of South Africa.
Since most of the mercenaries were from South Africa and South African regime had implicitly approved of the coup, Mike thought they were better off flying to South Africa. Air India crew was not willing to do that without some friendly persuasion. A friendly hijacking happened. Finally the plane which was supposed to be going to Bombay, changed it direction and headed to South Africa.
In South Africa, Mike and his mercenaries were arrested and put through the trial. Although Mike and his plans had been indirectly blessed by the powers, they could not publicly own up to that. So, they had to put Mike and his cronies through the process. Mike and his associates got jail terms up to 3 years.
Some of the mercenaries who had gone to Seychelles earlier for prep work were caught and tried in Seychelles and sentenced to death. Later their sentences were commuted and they were returned to their native countries.
Mike Hoare may be known more as a mercenary. However, he was also an accomplished and educated person. He was a chartered accountant in good standing. His license was cancelled after he was convicted in this affair. Mike writes in a very simple and nice style. This book reads very well.
Looking forward to read other books by Mike. Mike wrote a few more books describing his exploits in Congo and elsewhere.
History sometimes repeats. A few years back another coup attempt went awry. This did not include Mike Hoare. But, included other similar figures. You can read about that at - The Wonga Coup: Guns, Thugs, and a Ruthless Determination to Create Mayhem in an Oil-Rich Corner of Africa by Adam Roberts
My Blog entry about the above book at - http://maheshuh.blogspot.com/2006/09/wonga-coup.html
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