News & Opinion | May 25, 2018 11:53 am

British Double Agent Breaks Silence on Life Inside Al Qaeda

Former jihadi bomb maker opens up about turning on Osama bin Laden and spying for the West.

al qaeda
Fighters from Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front drive in armed vehicles in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo as they head to a frontline, on May 26, 2015. (Fadi al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

Aimen Dean was arguably the West’s most important spy inside al Qaeda. But he wasn’t always on the West’s side. He grew up in Saudi Arabia and joined a group of Muslims fighting against the Serbs in Bosnia in the mid-1990s. Then he went to Afghanistan, where he swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden. He would become one of al Qaeda’s most accomplished bomb makers, and he rubbed shoulders with top leaders of the group, including al-Zawahiri and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who would mastermind the 9/11 attacks.

But he could not accept the targeting of civilians by al Qaeda or the use of suicide bombers. He left Afghanistan, but was recruited within weeks by British intelligence to spy on the terrorist group and its sympathizers. He returned, at great personal risk, to al Qaeda, and provided critical intelligence. He foiled attacks on civilians and saved many lives.

In a new one-hour documentary by CNN, A Double Life: The Spy Inside al Qaeda, and in his memoir, Nine Lives: My Time as the West’s Top Spy Inside al-Qaeda, Dean tells his full, incredible story for the first time.