Thursday, November 16, 2006
Jihadist spied on al Qaeda for western governments
The man I'm interviewing, "Omar Nasiri," keeps his real name a secret. He does so, he says, in order to protect himself from all the people he's double-crossed over his years as a Western spy and a jihadist.
We meet in a small upscale Parisian hotel. It's comfortable, but Nasiri is not. He's come to tell me about his new book "Inside the Jihad," which is about his life spying inside al Qaeda.
We couldn't film his face, because although he claims to support a global jihad, or holy war, to drive the United States out of Iraq and Afghanistan, he says he has sold so many jihadi secrets to French, British, and then German intelligence agencies that he believes most jihadists would kill him if they could.
Our interview is fragmented. He needs to smoke -- a lot -- and his publisher tells me he's still raw emotionally. My questions, she says, probe events he still hasn't come to terms with, like a bombing in Algeria that killed more than 40 people, including women and children.
Nasiri may have driven the explosives that were ultimately used in the bombing from Europe to Morocco, but he can't be sure. The GIA, an Algerian militant group, was directly responsible for the bombing.
Nasiri is clearly conflicted. He's the only jihadi I've met who likes booze.
I wanted to understand him, get at his motivations. He spied, he says, to protect his family. Algerian militants had moved into his family's home in Belgium at the invitation of some of his brothers. They planned attacks from there and stored weapons in the house.
Nasiri figured that if the house got raided his mother and younger brother, who he says was not aligned with the militants, would wind up in jail, so he started spying to forestall a raid.
But that was in the beginning. Once he proved his worth, the Moroccan borm Nasiri says French intelligence officials sent him to infiltrate al Qaeda's Afghan training camps.
He says he's met senior al Qaeda leaders, although not Osama Bin Laden, and trained on explosives, poisons and combat. And he has a warning for the West -- pulling out of Iraq won't stop the global jihad.
He doesn't sound angry, more like someone who thinks he's handing out useful advice.