I grew up in Saudi Arabia, the youngest of six brothers. By the point I used to be 13, I had misplaced each my mother and father: my father in a visitors accident and my mom to a mind aneurysm.

Not lengthy after they died, in 1992, the Bosnian battle started. The night information detailed atrocities perpetrated towards defenceless Muslims, and the papers praised the bravery of the Saudi males who went to combat alongside them. My eldest brother had lectured us on the significance of combating in defence of Islam, and once I discovered {that a} childhood good friend had determined to affix the Bosnian mujahideen, I felt somebody was paving the best way for me.

I discovered the coaching empowering. A couple of weeks earlier I’d been a bookish nerd residing in a conservative police state. Now I used to be in a coaching camp, excessive within the mountains, holding my first AK-47. It was intoxicating. I grew to become a dedicated jihadist – after we had been shot at, the adrenaline would take over and I’d retaliate. All the time, I used to be keen to die. At the back of my thoughts, was the thought: this may very well be the day I cross into everlasting bliss.

I met al-Qaida’s Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who would go on to mastermind 9/11, at a marriage after the Bosnian battle ended, the place he spoke passionately about the necessity to rid the Muslim world of American affect. He persuaded me to start coaching with them. Earlier than the yr was out I had met Osama bin Laden and sworn an oath of allegiance.

Nonetheless solely 19, I used to be put to work coaching new recruits who usually lacked even primary information of Islamic theology and historical past. Many enrolled simply to flee dire poverty in Yemen. Later, I made explosives and chemical and organic weapons. I used to be fascinated by the science, and pushed the potential penalties out of my thoughts. I believed these bombs had been for use on US army bases within the Center East, and the potential of civilian casualties by no means occurred to me.

When information of the bombing of two US embassies in east Africa reached us in 1998, it was a turning level – 200 harmless Africans killed simply to get at 12 American diplomats. Once I requested an al-Qaida chief how this had been justified, he talked about a 700-year-old fatwa that excused the killing of civilians. I felt we had been twisting our ideas previous breaking level. I now not wished to be a part of it.

I used a deliberate well being check-up as a pretext for travelling to Qatar. I had no intention of returning, and it was a reduction once I was arrested on arrival for suspected terrorism offences. I confessed instantly to my al-Qaida involvement – so far as I used to be involved, this was destiny.

I used to be relocated to the UK for seven months of debriefings. Throughout that point, a lot of my long-held beliefs had been erased by the kindness I used to be proven. I had been educated to view westerners as animals, but right here I used to be having meals and prolonged discussions with respectable folks.

Once I was requested to spy on behalf of MI5 and MI6, I agreed immediately. For the subsequent eight years, I travelled recurrently between London and Afghanistan: so far as al-Qaida had been involved, I used to be working cash and tools and serving to them recruit within the UK. As a substitute, I might commit data to reminiscence and smuggled again to MI6 the designs of a tool to disperse lethal chemical brokers.

I knew the dangers, and had sleepless nights. However my time as a double agent didn’t finish till 2006, when categorized details about my work was leaked to journalists, and knowledge that inadvertently blew my cowl was printed in Time journal. I discovered this whereas on vacation, once I obtained a textual content from an al-Qaida colleague saying, “There’s a spy amongst us.” They hadn’t realised the spy was me.

Ultimately, a fatwa was issued towards me, and three years in the past safety providers uncovered a plot to kidnap and homicide me, hatched by a former al-Qaida ally. By that point I used to be married and my spouse was 5 months’ pregnant. However I’ve no regrets about working for the west – I do know deliberate assaults had been foiled because of the intelligence I gathered, and plenty of lives had been saved.

I nonetheless reside within the UK, and co-host a podcast utilizing my expertise to shine a light-weight on the Center East; I additionally work as a safety guide. I’ll by no means really feel completely secure, however I take what precautions I can.

As advised to Chris Broughton

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