Muslim ex-spy memoir shows ‘inside jihad’
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.