Omar Nasiri (not his real name) worked for European security agencies during the 1990s and infiltrated al Qaeda both in the camps of Afghanistan and in terror cells in London.
His story is reveals the extent of al-Qaeda's preparations - years before 9/11 - to target the west, but also the British authorities' lack of awareness of the growing threat of Islamic terrorism.
The following extract focuses on his training in Afghanistan.
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INSIDE GLOBAL JIHAD: HOW I INFILTRATED AL QAEDA AND WAS ABANDONED BY WESTERN INTELLIGENCE
By Omar Nasiri
We took notes on everything in the small notebooks they gave us at the camp. But ultimately we were expected to know the material by heart. When it came time to use the explosives, we weren't going to have a training manual in front of us. We needed to know what to do instinctively. And so we rehearsed the formulas over and over again until we could repeat them in our sleep. And every Sunday, Assad Allah gave us a test to make sure we knew it.
There was no joking around in Assad Allah's class. He never smiled, and he demanded our complete attention. I knew I couldn't play the class clown here if I wanted to succeed. The naughtiest thing I ever did was passing notes in class to Abdul Kerim. He, in turn, drew pictures in the margins of my notebook and wrote funny captions beneath them.
One day, we were in the laboratory when one of the Kyrgyztanis spilled a glass of water on one of the trainees. As a joke, he pretended it was sulphuric acid. Assad Allah saw the whole thing, and immediately banished the Kyrgyztani from the laboratory. Within an hour, he was on his way back to Pakistan. Assad Allah was right, of course. Explosives are extremely dangerous, and any one of us could have killed the entire group with a small mistake.
One day, Assad Allah told us about an accident that had occurred during his own explosives training. His group was learning how to make nitroglycerine, and one of the brothers wasn't paying attention. He let the materials get hotter than he should have. Luckily, the trainer looked over just in time and saw from the thermometer that the material was on the brink of exploding. There were seven other people in the laboratory, and it could have killed every one of them. 'It's going to explode!' he shouted at the brother.
There was a sink full of ice right next to the trainee, and he should have poured the materials on that to cool it down. But instead he rushed towards the door with the liquid time bomb in his hands. Just as he got outside, the mixture exploded. It blew both his arms straight off, and destroyed one of his eyes. 'Did the brother survive?' I asked.
'Yes,' Assad Allah replied. 'He lives in London now, and preaches in the mosques. His name is Abu Hamza.'
I had no idea who the man was at that point, and no way of knowing how important he would become in my life.
One day, Assad Allah took us down near the lake to practice preparing a really big explosion. There was a destroyed Russian truck on the hillside, and we dragged it down to water level. Then we filled it with explosives. We used fifty kilograms of ANFO - ammonium nitrate/fuel oil - and eleven antitank mines.
We connected the detonator to a long fuse. We had already calculated that it would take exactly one minute and fifteen seconds for the fuse to burn down completely. Assad Allah ordered one of the Kyrgyztanis to stay with the truck and ignite the fuse. The rest of us walked about two hundred meters uphill and gathered in a tight cluster behind the rocks to watch the explosion.
Assad Allah waved at the Kyrgyztani on the truck to signal him to light the fuse. We all held our breath as the brother leaned down. As soon as he stood back up, he bolted away from the truck and up the side of the mountain. He ran like he was escaping from an army of devils - I had never seen anyone run so fast in my life. A cloud of dust flew up all around him. When he got up to the rocks where we were standing, he hurled his body on the ground beside us. Just as he landed, the truck exploded. It began with the blue light I had seen so many times, but this flash was more intense than anything I had ever seen before. Then, BOOM. A giant fireball burst forth from the truck, followed by a cloud of thick black smoke that rose up to the sky in the shape of a perfect mushroom. The noise filled the entire valley.
We all stood there in shock for a few moments as we absorbed the immensity of what we had just seen. And then we raced down the hill to examine the place where the truck had been. The explosion had left a crater five meters wide and two meters deep. It was littered with tiny pieces of metal from the truck. We were all extremely impressed when we realized that only six of the eleven mines had exploded.
Abu Said al-Kurdi came and went from the camp. He'd stay for a few days at a time and then leave for a week and come back. Often, he brought new trainees with him. But on and off, over the course of several weeks, he and Abu Mousa worked on a complicated project. They were using a laboratory right next to where Assad Allah was training us, and we could see them through a window. Often they were there for hours at a time.