As one of al-Qaeda’s most respected bomb-makers, Aimen Dean rubbed shoulders with the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden.
As a double agent at the heart of al-Qaeda’s chemical weapons programme, he foiled attacks on civilians and saved countless lives, brushing with death so often that his handlers began to call him their spy with nine lives.
This is the story of how a young Muslim, determined to defend his faith, found himself fighting on the wrong side – and his fateful decision to work undercover for his sworn enemy. From the killing fields of Bosnia to the training camps of Afghanistan, from running money and equipment in Britain to dodging barrel bombs in Syria, we discover what life is like inside the global jihad, and what it will take to stop it once and for all.
Dean (a pseudonym), a founder of al-Qaeda, tells his story of becoming disgusted with the terrorist group and becoming an agent for British intelligence agency MI6 in a memoir that reads like a John le Carr novel. Dean writes of being drawn into jihadism to defend Muslim lives in Bosnia, how the destruction he witnessed "made me so angry that I wanted to fight those responsible for such horrors until my dying breath." Ably assisted by Lister and Cruickshank, Dean exposes fascinating details of life on the front lines ("celebratory gunfire... had a pattern unlike hostile fire"), from Chechnya to the Philippines to Afghanistan, as well as within extremist circles in the Gulf and in Europe. Increasingly alienated by his "bloodthirsty" al-Qaeda comrades (who relished testing chemical weapons on rabbits) and the group's casual acceptance of civilian casualties, in 1999 Dean concocted a medical excuse to slip away from the group to Qatar, whose government brought him in for questioning. He immediately flipped and was offered the chance to work as a double agent for the British. Though British intelligence is far from perfect, Dean contrasts his employers favorably with the hapless Americans he was first imprisoned and, in 2006, outed as a double agent due to errors made by vice president Dick Cheney's office. After he was "burned," he was hired by the Chinese, who paid much better, but he found this a "small reward for the intensity of demands." Fast-paced and sometimes stretching the bounds of credulity, Dean's tale will be a welcome diversion for those missing the recently ended espionage television show The Americans.