Mus­lim ex-spy mem­oir shows ‘inside ji­had’

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Shaun Water­man

A Mus­lim man who was a spy in the mid-1990s for sev­eral Euro­pean in­tel­li­gence­ser­vicesin­sid­e­the­global ji­had net­work that later be­came al Qaeda has writ­ten a mem­oir say­ing the agen­cies did not un­der­stand the na­ture of the threat the group posed.

“Inside the Ji­had,” writ­ten un­der thep­seudonymO­marNasiri,isaco­pi­ously de­tailed ac­count of a young man’sjour­neyfromthe­fringe­softhe Is­lamist move­ment in Bel­gium to a ter­ror­ist train­ing camp in Afghanistan.

Along the way, Nasiri says he smug­gled a car­load of ex­plo­sives from Brus­sels to Morocco, fin­gered one of the or­ga­niz­ers of the 1995 Paris metro bomb at­tacks, and met Abu Zubay­dah, who later be­came one of Osama bin Laden’s top re­cruiter­sofWestern­ji­hadis­at­train­ing camps in Afghanistan.

“The broad out­lines of the story have been con­firmed to me, and to a grow­inglisto­fother­ma­jor­me­diaout­lets, by intelligence of­fi­cials from sev­eral Euro­pean coun­tries,” said Gor­donCor­era,aBri­tishBroad­cast­ing Corp. correspondent whom Nasir­i­firstap­proached­with­hisstory af­ter the Lon­don sub­way bomb­ings last year.

Theac­coun­thasal­sobeen­deemed cred­i­ble by sev­eral schol­ars and re­porters that had ad­vance ac­cess to thetight­ly­held­manuscript­be­for­e­its pub­li­ca­tion last week, in­clud­ing Michael Scheuer, who led Alec Sta­tion, the CIA’s bin Laden hunt­ing unit,from1996to1999.He­calledthe ac­count of life in the camps the most de­tailed and com­plete he had seen.

Sev­eral for­mer se­nior U.S. of­fi­cials told United Press In­ter­na­tional that the ac­count rang true.

“It’s very plau­si­ble,” said Roger Cressey,for­merdeputyWhiteHouse coun­tert­er­ror­ism czar.

“There were agents run into the camps,” said Jack Cloo­nan, a re­tired FBI agent who led the bureau’s ef­forts against al Qaeda. “But most of themw­erenotvery­wellplaced”and lacked ac­cess to the net­work’s in­ner cir­cles.

Nasiri doesn’t claim to have been in al Qaeda’s in­ner cir­cles, and says he never met bin Laden, which al Qaeda an­a­lyst and au­thor Peter Ber­gen says in­creases his com­fort level about its cred­i­bil­ity.

“If you were go­ing to make some­thing up, you’d in­clude a bin Laden meet­ing, wouldn’t you?” he said.

Nasiri, who says he is a Moroc­can raised in Bel­gium, first ap­proached the French intelligence ser­vice, DGSE, af­ter steal­ing money from a Brus­sels-based cell of the Al­ge­rian ter­ror­ist group GIA, with which he had be­come in­volved through his brother.

TheDGSEhelped­hi­mout,andin re­turn he be­came their agent. While work­ing for them, he says, he drove a car­load of ex­plo­sives, money and other ma­teriel from Brus­sels to Morocco. He thinks that the ex­plo­sives may­have­beenuse­d­i­na­sub­se­quent bomb at­tack in Al­ge­ria that killed 40 per­sons.

If true, that would prove highly em­bar­rass­ing to the DGSE, and the first chal­lenge to de­tail of the ac­count came Nov. 22 from a for­mer of­fi­cial of the French ser­vice, who said on Bel­gian TV that col­leagues still at the agency said Nasiri was mis­char­ac­ter­iz­ing his re­la­tion­ship with it.

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