Who is Omar Nasiri? Why does he matter? What makes his story worth telling? In the early 1990s, Nasiri, a Moroccan brought up in Europe, fell in with a gang of North African Islamist extremists who were planning attacks, raising money, and buying weapons and explosives. The DGSE, France’s foreign espionage arm, recruited Nasiri as an informer – routine, workaday stuff at first, but his talents for dissimulation meant he became increasingly useful to his handlers. After proving himself to his superiors in Paris, they set him a seemingly impossible task: to infiltrate Al Qaeda’s training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This he readily accomplished, to the great surprise of the intelligence services, learning about Al Qaeda’s chemical weapons programme and meeting internationally known jihadi luminaries. Because of his intelligence, linguistic skills and sang-froid, Al Qaeda in turn fast-tracked Nasiri to serve its cause overseas, and sent him to London, Europe’s Islamist hub, suggesting that he had been selected for a special mission as a long-term sleeper agent. Bearing personal recommendations from Al Qaeda’s Khalden and Derunta training camps, Nasiri quickly convinced London’s Islamists of his bona fides, yet all the while he fed back to MI6 and other Western intelligence agencies a stream of unique insights into the Islamists’ global objectives. This is the story – attested by specialists in international espionage and security – of the man who infiltrated Al Qaeda. Gordon Corera, the BBC’s security correspondent, has written an introduction to Omar Nasiri’s memoir, setting in context his involvement in the global jihad.
‘A terrific book. Omar Nasiri offers a groundbreaking account of the process by which young men became mujahidin. His description of life inside the Afghan training camps is more complete than any intelligence we had available to us in the 1990s. It indicates a level of professionalism within the camps that we were only able to infer from the fragmentary accounts available to us–and which policymakers dismissed at the time as CIA scare-mongering. As a micro-level description of the whole training process within the camps, Nasiri’s account has, I believe, no peer in the publications of the American intelligence community.’ — Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden Unit and author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror
‘A chillingly detailed portrait of life inside the Afghan training camps. Omar Nasiri’s memoir offers a unique insider’s perspective on the crucial years during which a loosely connected group of regional Islamist movements coalesced into Al Qaeda’s global jihad.’ — Ahmed Rashid, author of the no. 1 New York Times bestseller, Taliban
Omar Nasiri is a pseudonym to protect the author's identity. He was born in Morocco and currently lives in Germany with his wife.