Scottish Daily Mail


- by Mortem Storm

AS WE raced through the desert in a cloud of dust, I knew I was on my way into the lion’s den, about to put my head in its jaws. I was in the lawless, fly-blown state of Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and, Kalashniko­v in hand, being driven to meet one of Al Qaeda’s top figures, a man tipped as the successor of Bin Laden. To the fighters I was with, I was Murad al-Danmarki, a brother jihadist. Later that night in January 2012, after being greeted as a trusted friend, I was asked to go one step further in my commitment to the cause and take an oath of allegiance to the Al Qaeda leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi. With no choice, I intoned: ‘I will be true to Leader of the Faithful, and will fight Allah’s cause.’

It was done. This ginger-haired, white-skinned Westerner — a one-time juvenile delinquent, biker gang member and jailbird, now a convert to Islam — was a signed-up member of Al Qaeda, dedicated to the destructio­n of kuffars [infidels], particular­ly in the U.S. and Britain.

Except I wasn’t. For five long years I had kept up this pose as a militant jihadist. In reality I was a spy, working undercover for Western intelligen­ce agencies.

I’d seen enough videos of brutal executions by Al Qaeda to know my fate if discovered — a savage and slow beheading or crucifixio­n, my body left hanging for days.

Avoiding such a grisly end depended on keeping sharp. In London, Luton and Birmingham, where I operated, there were so many radicals on the streets I could not let the mask drop for a moment. Even my wife, Fadia, had no idea who I really was, nor my children.

I moved constantly back and forth between two worlds and two identities — when one misplaced sentence or an overheard phone conversati­on could cost me my life. I switched identity in airport departure and arrival halls, flipping between atheism and hardline Islam, English and Arabic, T-shirts and robes.

And it worked. Informatio­n I supplied had helped foil bomb plots. I planted the equipment that directed American drone missiles against some of the most dangerous men on the planet.

It was a ruthless game. An MI5

I turned to Islam to escape a life of

violent crime

psychologi­st checking on my suitabilit­y as a spy once asked me: ‘What would you do if you were with Al Qaeda and ordered to execute a prisoner?’ Before I could reply, he told me what I knew was the only answer: ‘You’d kill him to avoid attracting any suspicion or doubt.’

For years I had been fuelled by the need to stop the next attack, by the adrenaline rush and camaraderi­e with my handlers. But this lifestyle had brought me to the verge of a breakdown. It was time to opt out before it was too late. MY REAL name is Morten Storm and I was born in Denmark in 1976, a working-class boy with a drunk for a father and a violent stepfather who beat both me and my mother. I was 13 when I attempted my first armed robbery, holding up a shop with a hand gun.

It was the start of a downward spiral into crime, violence and prison. I smuggled, consumed ridiculous amounts of drugs and delighted in street brawls. Hailed at the age of 20 as ‘Denmark’s youngest psychopath’, I joined a biker gang known as the Bandidos, deadly rivals of the Hell’s Angels, whom they fought with guns and knives at every opportunit­y.

But I began to worry that the constant fixes of violence and drugs would eventually kill me. After one fight in which I hit a man with a baseball bat, I couldn’t get the sound of his knees and arms cracking out of my head. Perhaps I really was turning into a psychopath, and that made me start questionin­g the purpose of my life.

Then one day, I went into a library and, though I had never been religious, I picked up a life of the Prophet Muhammad.

I knew about Islam through immigrants I met on the streets, and had always envied the strength of their families and the bonds that united them while facing poverty and discrimina­tion.

Now I was utterly absorbed as I read about the Prophet’s dignity and simplicity and the way he had fought for what he believed in. His words set out a system of belief that was both merciful and compassion­ate, offered absolution for sins and a pathway to a more fulfilling life. Islam could help me rein in my instincts and gain some self-discipline. I was converted.

I joined a mosque, where an imam welcomed me, and I declared my newfound faith — ‘There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his messenger.’ He replied: ‘You are now a Muslim. Your sins are forgiven and you are my brother.’

A Muslim friend told me with a grin that I ought to be circumcise­d, ‘but i t’s not compulsory. It’s more important that you now take a Muslim name’.

‘You should be “Murad”,’ he said. ‘It means “goal” or “achievemen­t”.’ It seemed appropriat­e.

After that I prayed five times a day and wore an Islamic cap as I zealously soaked up the prescripti­ons of Islam. I felt a sense of stability I had never had before.

As part of this new life, I decided to move to England. At the Regent’s Park Mosque in London I was welcomed as a convert and encouraged to continue my studies in a Muslim country. A ticket to Yemen was offered, and I went. There, I was drawn deeper than ever into the intricacie­s of my new religion.

After the best part of a year, I returned to London. In Brixton, Hounslow, Shepherd’s Bush and Finchley, I came across mosques energised by a new militancy. Angry young men were looking to inflict revenge on the West for what they saw as its persecutio­n of Muslims in many parts of the world.

Some began wearing combat fatigues to the mosque, among them a Jamaican-Englishman called Richard Reid, who years later would be jailed as the ‘shoe bomber’ for trying to blow up a plane with explosive powder hidden in his footwear.

Soon London — and especially the mosque at Finsbury Park — was the clearing-house for dozens of militants intent on acts of terrorism. They often had similar background­s: difficult or violent childhoods, little education and df few prospects, t no job jb and d a lot lt of f resentment­s. Just like me, in fact.

I, too, was increasing­ly radicalise­d. When I first became a Muslim, my view had been that jihad was a defensive duty rather than offensive warfare against other faiths. But now I was shifting towards support for

Bin Laden was a hero — I named my son after him

taking up arms to defend the faith, crossing the line from talk to action.

I was back in Yemen with plans to travel to Osama Bin Laden’s camps in Afghanista­n when the Twin Towers in New York were attacked. I had to make a decision. Whose side was I on? With important Islamic clerics pronouncin­g that it was now permissibl­e to kill civilians in pursuit of jihad and President Bush declaring, ‘You are either with us or with the terrorists’, I had no option. I could not t side id with ith th the k kuffar. ff

Bin Laden became my hero. When my son was born in May 2002 I named him Osama. The following year, the Bush-Blair invasion of Iraq seemed like another declaratio­n of war against Muslims and another reason to embrace jihad.

My commitment to the cause went beyond words. Back in Denmark I joined other would-be jihadists for training at paintball sites where we practised suicide- style attacks. Although I did not know it at the time, my activities and my militant messages online were being monitored by Danish intelligen­ce.

In 2003, I returned to England and set up home in Luton, where the U.S. occupation of Iraq was fuelling more radicalism.

Talk of jihad was common, and after so much time in the Arab world among its militant leaders, I soon built up a following.

No level of violence or brutality seemed excessive as justifiabl­e retributio­n for the invasion of Muslim lands. We took satisfacti­on from watching the video of kidnapped American civilian Nick Berg having his head sawn off in Iraq. I even managed to find a religious justificat­ion for the 2005 London Tube and bus b bombings bi i in which hi h 52 people l di died d and many hundreds were injured.

Yet deep down I was having nagging doubts about this targeting of civilians. To my mind, non-Muslims were fellow human beings, albeit misguided ones. I didn’t see the need to kill them.

I was lost for words when an Englishman I was working with as a nightclub bouncer asked me: ‘Why does Allah want people to kill other people? Don’t you think He would prefer you to teach them to read?’

His question troubled me. I realised that, since becoming a Muslim, I had learned to see enemies everywhere. I was defining myself by what I loathed, to distract myself from the anger and frustratio­n that had been part of me since childhood. Wasn’t it better to reconcile than to hate?

But I put these thoughts aside as my network of extremist contacts round the world continued to grow. There were many youngsters in the West desperate to get to places like Somalia and Yemen to take up arms for the cause. I was desperate to become one of them myself.

I made plans to go to Somalia and was within days of departing when I was warned by Islamists there that it

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom