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As one of al-Qaeda's most respected scholars and bomb-makers, Aimen Dean rubbed shoulders with the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden himself. His job was already one of the most dangerous in the world. But what the others didn't know was that he was working undercover for MI6. This is the story of a young Muslim determined to defend his As one of al-Qaeda's most respected scholars and bomb-makers, Aimen Dean rubbed shoulders with the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden himself. His job was already one of the most dangerous in the world. But what the others didn't know was that he was working undercover for MI6. This is the story of a young Muslim determined to defend his faith, even if it meant dying for the cause, the terrible disillusionment that followed when he realised he was fighting on the wrong side, and the fateful decision to work undercover with his sworn enemy. In a career spanning decades in some of the most lethal conflicts of the past fifty years, we discover what it's like to be at the heart of the global jihad, and what it will take to stop it once and for all.


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As one of al-Qaeda's most respected scholars and bomb-makers, Aimen Dean rubbed shoulders with the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden himself. His job was already one of the most dangerous in the world. But what the others didn't know was that he was working undercover for MI6. This is the story of a young Muslim determined to defend his As one of al-Qaeda's most respected scholars and bomb-makers, Aimen Dean rubbed shoulders with the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden himself. His job was already one of the most dangerous in the world. But what the others didn't know was that he was working undercover for MI6. This is the story of a young Muslim determined to defend his faith, even if it meant dying for the cause, the terrible disillusionment that followed when he realised he was fighting on the wrong side, and the fateful decision to work undercover with his sworn enemy. In a career spanning decades in some of the most lethal conflicts of the past fifty years, we discover what it's like to be at the heart of the global jihad, and what it will take to stop it once and for all.

30 review for Nine Lives: The True Story of an Mi6 Double Agent on the Frontlines

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X

    This is an incredibly deep and detailed look into Al Qaeda and Jihad. I am struck by the fact that Christians say that there is only one God, but that the God of the Old Testament was a jealous vengeful God but theirs is a peaceful loving one. If there's only one God, he's the same, otherwise he's invented. But the Jihadi Muslims and their sympathisers, says the author, who is a religious Muslim, it seems go one step further, they say that their God hates everyone who isn't a Muslim and that jus This is an incredibly deep and detailed look into Al Qaeda and Jihad. I am struck by the fact that Christians say that there is only one God, but that the God of the Old Testament was a jealous vengeful God but theirs is a peaceful loving one. If there's only one God, he's the same, otherwise he's invented. But the Jihadi Muslims and their sympathisers, says the author, who is a religious Muslim, it seems go one step further, they say that their God hates everyone who isn't a Muslim and that justifies Jihad, murder and terrorism. Not only that but He hates all Muslims who don't believe as they do (7thC fundamentalism is key here). The God of ISIS particularly is delighted with torture, pain and beheadings says the author. And there is only one God? Eternal and unchanging, or man-made? Please don't troll me and say that Muslims are peaceful, Jews are peaceful, Christians are peaceful, yes all of us normal, average, going to work every day type of people are. I'm talking about this book, and what the author says about Jihadis. The book is brilliant beyond even the best 10 star book I've read this year. It won't get a Goodreads Award, those will go to self-published silly romances, fantasies and the occasional readable story, but they will not hold up against this book of sheer genius. Written by a man with a great moral sense, who isn't a saint, but he went with what he believed even at great personal risk (there is a fatwa against him) and became a double agent and thereby saved all of us from atrocities of a scale and worse that 9-11. (Al Qaeda, the author says, regretted not including weapons of mass destruction in the planes that struck the Twin Towers.) I'm rereading the book right away. I want to write a proper review, and I did make notes, but it needs even closer attention than I gave it. I wish I could give the author 10 pure gold stars for my admiration at his courage and the work he did that has helped save all of us. I am in awe of him. Notes on Pepsi and Coca Cola (view spoiler)[ "The imam at the author's local mosque: "He alleged, for example, that the patties at the Saudi franchise of the American burger chain Hardee’s were made from pork. He told us that Pepsi stood for ‘Pay Every Penny to Save Israel’. And when you held a bottle of Coca-Cola to the mirror, the reflected logo in Arabic read ‘No Mohammed No Mecca’."" (hide spoiler)]

  2. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X

    I reread the book and thought if it quite differently from my first review. If any/all of this is true, it is the astounding story of a very ignorant Saudi Arabian who actually believed he would be rewarded by having virgins at his disposal in heaven if he only died in Jihad, a war against the West and everything it stood for. (view spoiler)[This thing about virgins means to me that the men have no confidence in their abilities as lovers so they want virgins who cannot compare them. Men who don' I reread the book and thought if it quite differently from my first review. If any/all of this is true, it is the astounding story of a very ignorant Saudi Arabian who actually believed he would be rewarded by having virgins at his disposal in heaven if he only died in Jihad, a war against the West and everything it stood for. (view spoiler)[This thing about virgins means to me that the men have no confidence in their abilities as lovers so they want virgins who cannot compare them. Men who don't rate women as people who might actually deserve sexual pleasure - which requires skill. And men who think of women in a sexual way as just some unused hole for them to get first use of. All the men I know would much prefer a really skilful lover they could have great fun with. (hide spoiler)] He joined Al Qaeda and became a bomb-maker. He says of 9/11 that the planners were just sorry they didn't include weapons of mass destruction (ie germ or chemical warfare) on the planes. Eventually he educates himself through books that were unavailable and would not in any case have been allowed in Saudi Arabia about the realities of the world and horrified by how his bombs might be used (he is a bit icky about killing women and children and about - but not so much - the large number of animals he has had to torture and kill as he learns his trade) and becomes a turncoat for the British. At the end of his career as a double agent he becomes an anti-terrorist adviser for China. I don't believe or not believe it. He's a real braggart about all his exploits and superlative intelligence and ability to be better than anyone else but they don't know it. That makes him sound very dislikeable and arrogant but he's neither of these things, he's a very engaging author indeed. But whether he is to be believed or just great at telling stories, that I don't know.

  3. 4 out of 5

    James

    At the offset it’s important to note that Nine Lives is a non-fiction account of one of the few spies Western intelligence has had at the heart of al-Qaeda. As such it gives a rare glimpse into the intelligence world, but more than that, this book gives an intuitive insight into al-Qaeda and jihad more broadly (including its latest incarnation, ISIS) and is in my opinion one of the best titles so far on the subject. Aimen Dean is that rarest of people. A jihadi, an al-Qaeda member who rose throug At the offset it’s important to note that Nine Lives is a non-fiction account of one of the few spies Western intelligence has had at the heart of al-Qaeda. As such it gives a rare glimpse into the intelligence world, but more than that, this book gives an intuitive insight into al-Qaeda and jihad more broadly (including its latest incarnation, ISIS) and is in my opinion one of the best titles so far on the subject. Aimen Dean is that rarest of people. A jihadi, an al-Qaeda member who rose through the ranks of that organisation to become, while not one of the leaders or upper tiers, a highly respected and influential figure. Then came disillusion and the fateful decision to turn against his former comrades-in-arms. Some in that situation might have just gone home, others might have struck out alone, perhaps joining a rival jihadist group. But Dean chose another path altogether. Through accident, serendipity, and courage of convictions, he chose to spy for Britain’s intelligence service, MI6 The author started his journey in Bosnia. The Russian occupation of Afghanistan had drawn to a close, the jihad there having attracted thousands of Muslims from around the globe and radicalised a generation. In the years afterwards, those who had gone to fight either returned home or looked for fresh battles, while those coming of age who had missed the conflict, dreamed of glory. The massacre of Bosnia’s Muslims by the Serbs provided them with a fresh outlet and Dean, now sixteen, was determined not to miss it. He travelled to the Balkan battlefield dreaming of martyrdom and while disappointed not to be granted his wish, he did see combat. But Bosnia also was where the first seed of doubt was planted. In one battle the jihadists captured a large number of Serb militia. There was debate as to what to do with them. In a sickening foretaste of ISIS atrocities to come decades later, the decision was made to behead them. This was done brutally and with relish. Dean refused to participate but was greatly disturbed by the bloodlust he saw in fellow fighters he considered friends. While Dean was shaken by these events, he remained a committed jihadi and in years to come would travel to Afghanistan where he eventually joined Bin Laden. It was here though that his doubts concerning Jihad finally came into stark relief. The 1998 embassy bombings killed 224 people (213 in Nairobi and 11 in Dar es Salaam) while injuring over 4000 (4000 in Nairobi and 85 in Dar es Salaam). The vast majority of the casualties were ordinary Kenyan and Tanzanian citizens going about their business, a large proportion of whom were Muslim. Yet in the al Qaeda training camps the news was met with celebration the casualties dismissed as not proper Muslims. The bombings had been planned to coincide with Friday prayers, so according to al Qaeda’s logic, any Muslims caught up in the conflagration had turned their back on God. Sickened by what he saw, Dean travelled abroad on the pretext of needing medical treatment. Detained at the airport in Bahrain, he first came to the attention of the Bahraini intelligence services, and finally, that of MI6 where he was persuaded to spy. This book was written in conjunction with Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister, respected journalists who helped Morten Storm, another al Qaeda militant who spied for the West, write his memoir, Agent Storm. At The outset of Nine Lives they assure the reader that they’ve verified much of Aimen Dean’s story with their sources in the intelligence world. This is a good thing because the revelations within these pages are eye-opening. In the reviews of this book in the press, much attention has been given to the revelation that the ban on passengers carrying laptops onto certain flights in the Middle East was due to intelligence that Hamayan Tariq, a car mechanic from Dudley, and now master bomb maker for al Qaeda, had invented a technique for disguising bombs as laptop batteries. While interesting, to my mind there are starker disclosures than this within this title’s pages. One of these is the author’s knowledge of al Qaeda’s efforts in chemical warfare. Aimen Dean was deeply involved in al-Qaeda’s chemical weapons programme when in the Afghan training camps (he was working for MI6 at this point and they asked him to continue with this work so that he could inform the intelligence services as to al-Qaeda’s progress). In particular, he describes how al-Qaeda succeeded with hydrogen cyanide and cyanogen chloride. They developed a crude but effective dispersal system, the mubtakkar. This was to be used in a 2003 plot against the New York subway that was called off by Ayman Zawahiri (then al-Qaeda’s number two). This device has never been used but it has come close to being so on a number of occasions and the author fears it is only a matter of time. The biggest disclosures in this title however aren’t so much “big ticket items” – attacks thwarted, plots uncovered, etc – but an insight into the jihadi mindset. As someone educated and yet deeply imbued in jihadism, Dean shows how the logic of al-Qaeda, and later ISIS, is deeply rooted in perverted interpretations of the Quran and Hadith. This is an important revelation, because some of ISIS’s destructive, and seemingly self-defeating behaviour, can be explained once this is understood. Another aspect I found eye-opening is how accepted and normalised fighting jihad has become. In families such as Dean’s - normal, well-to-do Middle Eastern families - a family member’s decision to travel to Syria to fight is a perfectly acceptable life-choice, even something to be proud. Again, this is something we in the West ignore at our peril. Nine Lives is an incredibly enlightening read and one that a book review cannot really do justice. Post-9/11, and now with ISIS on the rampage, bookshelves groan under the weight of titles analysing these events. I have read a fair few myself. I have to say that this is far and away one of the best and written by someone with real, first hand understanding of the phenomenon.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Meaningless

    In search of a formula for a popular Autobiography of a Disillusioned Ex-Jihadi 1- There is an Arab currently living in a western country, with a secret past. 2- After years of fighting his existential crisis, he now wants to reveal the truth to the world. The truth which has never been spoken before. The truth which will set him and everyone free. 3- He narrates his story in a non-linear thrilling style. Linear narrative is so boring and mundane. So he starts by informing the reader that terrori In search of a formula for a popular Autobiography of a Disillusioned Ex-Jihadi 1- There is an Arab currently living in a western country, with a secret past. 2- After years of fighting his existential crisis, he now wants to reveal the truth to the world. The truth which has never been spoken before. The truth which will set him and everyone free. 3- He narrates his story in a non-linear thrilling style. Linear narrative is so boring and mundane. So he starts by informing the reader that terrorists are planning to kill him, maybe he would be killed before this book got published.. So read it carefully , you are reading the true words of soon to be dead man. 4- It all started Years ago , he had a happy childhood in a geographically doomed region of middle east. Circumstances forced this brilliant and righteous person to be indoctrinated by an extremist ideology. He wanted to bring islamic revolution against the tyranny and oppression of a new world order. 5- He fled to the war zone and fought against kafirs, but never killed or harmed any one. Everyone beside him was killing , beheading, torturing , looting and plundering. He was so good at heart that he was heartbroken at the plight and pain of his enemies. 6- In the war zone he met soon to be world famous jihadis and expertly noted their characteristic and personality traits ( Just in case he need to write about them someday). 7- Slight disillusionment didn't forced him to abandon his ideals, so he fled to another war zone. But instead of fighting he raised cats and played beach volley ball there. 8- Disappointing at lack of action, fled to the mother of all war zones ( Afghanistan) to get the best training in chemical explosives. In his free time he used to raise cats and meet all famous jihadi leaders. 9- He joined Al-Qaida by personally meeting Osama bin laden. 10- Even with Al-qaida he never hurt anybody. Although he was an expert in chemical explosives he never made a bomb for any suicide mission. 11- He had a deep knowledge of islamic theology and jihadi literature but his reasons for leaving jihadi life were emotional . He felt the wrongness of jihadi arguments from inside his heart. No intellectual argument convince him to kill fellow human being. 12- The reason for his disillusionment was indiscriminate killing of civilian muslims and non-muslims by Al-Qaida and jihadis. 13- Before disillusionment he was carefully collecting valuable inside information ( Just in case someone in MI6 may contact him in the future :) ) 14- Claimed to have vague knowledge of every major terrorist attack in western country. 15- Accidently came in contact with MI6 years before 9/11, they were amazingly good intentioned people who always keep their words, act according to constitution, believe in justice and peace, help people on humanitarian grounds, believe in solution by peaceful means blaw blaw blwa..... 16- He decided to become a double agent only to fight terrorism , injustice and making the world a better place. 17- Found solace in the knowledge that his father was also an undercover agent for british years ago.. 18- Became the most valuable asset for good intentioned western spy agencies.. Well it doesn't bother me the least whether anything in this book was factual or not. I am interested in what narrative reveals. To quote Derrida " There is nothing outside of the text"... I am curious why narrative is revealing everything humane and good about the author, never mentioning any atrocity or harm done by him or any spy agency. He claimed to have deep knowledge of islamic theology and jihadi literature but talk like a lay man on these issues... Never mentioned the intellectual work and arguments of islamic scholars working on counter narrative against terrorism. Although he claimed to know all major jihadi's but his description of their personalities is very ordinary and superficial. An insider knowledge should not be coloured by already prevailing simplified perceptions. Interestingly he never talk like someone born and raised in an rich Arab culture. His perceptions, knowledge, and values are so westernized. May be he wanted the intended readers to feel affinity with him. Beside many shortcomings, the book is an interesting read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Since 9/11 the Middle East has been a focal point for American foreign policy, with much focus devoted to militant groups and their activities. Al-Qaeda because of its role in so many attacks against Americans both on foreign and domestic soil, has garnered a great deal of attention by our intelligence communities and by the public. In an attempt to learn more about this mysterious organization, I requested this book to review. This book more than met my hopes and expectations. The author, a tee Since 9/11 the Middle East has been a focal point for American foreign policy, with much focus devoted to militant groups and their activities. Al-Qaeda because of its role in so many attacks against Americans both on foreign and domestic soil, has garnered a great deal of attention by our intelligence communities and by the public. In an attempt to learn more about this mysterious organization, I requested this book to review. This book more than met my hopes and expectations. The author, a teenager filled with religious fervor and hope, joined al-Qaeda in its quest to reclaim Muslim dominance in the area. Dean, because of his analytic mind and skills, soon became one of the group's premier bomb makes, specializing in chemical weapons. However, over time seeing how many civilians on both sides were being killed needlessly, Dean became disillusioned with al-Qaeda. He then became an agent for British intelligence, providing them with incredible information an all sorts of al-Qaeda activities. His time was cut short as a spy because his cover was compromised, but the United States of course, and most likely someone in Vice President Dick Cheney's office. Remember Valerie Plame? I have never been a fan of Cheney's and the more I learn about him, the more reasons he gives me to feel this way. Regardless, what makes this book even more phenomenal besides these incredible real life spy tales is the author's assessment as to how to eliminate al-Qaeda and similar groups in the middle east - we have had it all wrong of course! I am hopeful that our next president will read this book (it is an accepted fact that Trump does not read) and take some of it to heart. Maybe then we can effectively bring some peace to that region. This is simply an amazing book for us all.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Beers

    This is a fascinating account of a Muslim jihadi who became a spy for the British. I recommend it for anyone interested in the origins and development of the scourge of radical extremism.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Justinas Rastenis

    Great book about jihadi movement narrated from the perspective of the UK's Top Spy in Al-Qaeda. The author masterfully tells the story of his youth by carefully unravelling the complexity that surrounds contemporary geopolitics of the Middle East. The book has many first person accounts and should be like a textbook for anyone interested in the topic. Worth every minute of my time and I was astonished about relatively lack of popular attention to this masterpiece.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gordon Paisley

    Review of Nine Lives by Aimen Dean What do you do when a Bahraini-born, Saudi-raised conservative, devout Muslim jihadi writes a book about how he personally swore allegiance to Osama Bin Laden—and then turned into an MI-6 spy against Al Qaeda? You read it! As a teenager, Aimen, then going by his given name, Ali, runs away from home to fight in the Bosnian war. His desire was to defend Muslims and to pursue what we know as Jihad—fighting in a holy war with the prospect—or even goal of getting kill Review of Nine Lives by Aimen Dean What do you do when a Bahraini-born, Saudi-raised conservative, devout Muslim jihadi writes a book about how he personally swore allegiance to Osama Bin Laden—and then turned into an MI-6 spy against Al Qaeda? You read it! As a teenager, Aimen, then going by his given name, Ali, runs away from home to fight in the Bosnian war. His desire was to defend Muslims and to pursue what we know as Jihad—fighting in a holy war with the prospect—or even goal of getting killed. He survives his time in the war, and because he cannot go home, he keeps following the broader Jihadi movement, ultimately finding himself in the Philippines and then later in Afghanistan. The story of how Ali goes from place to place and how he becomes a bomb-making expert is fascinating in its own right and is an example of where truth rivals fiction for intrigue and action. Ali was definitely on the way up in al-Qaeda, slowly but surely. Then, without losing his faith or his commitment to what he believes, he decides that targeting—or at least not taking reasonable steps to prevent harm to—innocent non-combatants is not something he can be a part of. He finds his way to British Intelligence and offers to become an informant. After a period of vetting, he is trusted to go back to the field and report back to his handlers what he sees and hears. Over a period of years, he provides critical intelligence to the British about al-Qaeda and had a hand in preventing at least one terrorist attack in the UK. The balance that Ali must strike between maintaining his cover by continuing to act committed to the Jihadi cause and providing useful information, while not participating in the murder of innocents which he morally opposes and blowing his cover is supremely tense. He realizes that if he tips his hand and shows his true self, he will be considered a traitor and will be killed—perhaps after extensive torture. To make this even harder, he has to figure out how to relate to his family, who don’t know of his spying. Besides this incredible true story, one of the best parts of the book is an overview of the jihadi movement since 1979. Many of the later elements of this history are familiar to us, but the origins in 1979 were not something I was familiar with. Along the way in his story, he traces the history of the modern jihad movement through his participation in it. From the Bosnian war through the rise and decline of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, Aimen had a front-row seat. He offers rational, credible, realistic alternatives of how the West can minimize its part in creating the culture that gives rise to extremists and terrorists. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of modern terrorism, and particularly to those who want to do something positive about it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    While one has to take it all with a grain of salt, especially his tuned-for-consultancy-contracts policy recommendations, this does give an interesting perspective on radical Islam and on how Al Qaeda developed and works.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sami Eerola

    Wery well written autobiography of a turn coat al-Qaeda chemist that became a MI6 spy. This is is at the same time a first hand account about the inner workings of a al-Qaeda terrorist sell, on modern spying and a history of modern Jihadism. Dean writes very well and this book went almost like a novel. But still the details are confirmed by the editors and what i know about the topic. Because the writer is a British-Bahrain, he is very critical of US foreign policy and says directly that the Ame Wery well written autobiography of a turn coat al-Qaeda chemist that became a MI6 spy. This is is at the same time a first hand account about the inner workings of a al-Qaeda terrorist sell, on modern spying and a history of modern Jihadism. Dean writes very well and this book went almost like a novel. But still the details are confirmed by the editors and what i know about the topic. Because the writer is a British-Bahrain, he is very critical of US foreign policy and says directly that the Americans created the conditions for the rise of al-Qaeda and ISIS. In this aspect this book was surprisingly left-wing. I was expecting that a British spy would be a right wing war hack, but this is almost a anti-war testament about the evils of imperialism.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    An excellent autobiographical book that provides insightful information about modern Muslim extremism as well as the precarious nature of espionage. His intimate associations give a perspective that could not be more unique - this is someone who went through a terrible but ultimately transcendent personal struggle. He emerges from a violent world as a changed and scarred man, but allows that experience to broaden his view rather than let it descend into a ideology of hatred. The closing meditati An excellent autobiographical book that provides insightful information about modern Muslim extremism as well as the precarious nature of espionage. His intimate associations give a perspective that could not be more unique - this is someone who went through a terrible but ultimately transcendent personal struggle. He emerges from a violent world as a changed and scarred man, but allows that experience to broaden his view rather than let it descend into a ideology of hatred. The closing meditations on justice and ethics are certainly heartening for anyone dismayed at the proliferation of conflict in the Middle East - Change must come from within the system, rather than without.

  12. 4 out of 5

    ErnstG

    Over the last 50 years the Muslim communities have undergone a conservative religious revival which has affected their political engagement; in some cases a violent engagement to defend the community, to expand it or to cleanse it (or more than one). This book is a rare opportunity for a non-Muslim to understand how a serious and intelligent person might end up in what seems to the outsider to be senseless violence, and how he dealt with that. That understanding is to me more interesting than the Over the last 50 years the Muslim communities have undergone a conservative religious revival which has affected their political engagement; in some cases a violent engagement to defend the community, to expand it or to cleanse it (or more than one). This book is a rare opportunity for a non-Muslim to understand how a serious and intelligent person might end up in what seems to the outsider to be senseless violence, and how he dealt with that. That understanding is to me more interesting than the actual operational detail, that will no doubt have been redacted in many ways and for many reasons. It is also a jolly good read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marin

    The biography of the allegedly most important West's spy inside al Qaeda. I listened to a part of his interview on LBC with Maajid Nawaz a couple of years ago and, as I have never heard a jihadi spy speaking before, I was curious to know more about him and his travails. The corona lockdown offered me the opportunity to do it, so I bought a copy of his book from Amazon. There is no independent reference about him on the internet, apart from some interviews and reviews of his two books, so, one canno The biography of the allegedly most important West's spy inside al Qaeda. I listened to a part of his interview on LBC with Maajid Nawaz a couple of years ago and, as I have never heard a jihadi spy speaking before, I was curious to know more about him and his travails. The corona lockdown offered me the opportunity to do it, so I bought a copy of his book from Amazon. There is no independent reference about him on the internet, apart from some interviews and reviews of his two books, so, one cannot assess how much truth it is and how much fabulation. I bought most of the first part of the story, but as the book progressed, I found more and more discrepancies and unanswered questions regarding his role in the organisation. After a baptism of fire in Bosnia and a short trip to Philippines, he appears to be semidetached from the organisation – he goes to a training camp in Afghanistan where, apart from some training in explosive handling, a short posting on the front line with the North Alliance before 9/11, some help he gives with religious teaching of young recruits and some dreams reading, he is not involved in any planning of management of the organisation. Somehow, he gets in contact with many famous terrorists, and he even swears allegiance to Osama bin Laden in a one to one meeting. Unhappy with the massive civilian casualties resulted from the East African embassies bombings of 1988, he examined the religious justification for jihad, found it a nonsense, and he decided to switch sides, becoming a spy for MI6/MI5. He comes and goes without creating any suspicions in the high hierarchy. Many of his moves are inexplicable. Even a loose organisation as Al Qaeda appears to be, according to this book, would have asked some serious questions about his behaviour. Some of his actions are hard to be believed, such as the one where he offers himself to the Taliban as an emissary to the Australian government before the 2000 Olympics, despite having no involvement with the Taliban or having any Australian connections. Somehow, he is an expert on the “mubtakkar,” a device capable of a toxic gas Al Qaeda terrorists contemplated to use in an attack on New York subways in 2003. Surprisingly, Al Qaeda's deputy leader Al-Zawahiri cancelled the operation because he was concerned that the Americans could legitimize the invasion of Iraq. Two questions came to my mind – why wasn’t he concerned the Americans will invade Afghanistan before al Qaeda launched 9/11 attacks, and why nobody used this magic weapon since. In another chapter we were told the strategy of having spectacular terrorism acts was to attract American intervention that will provoke a holy war and the end of the world as we know it, but maybe the author did not used a proof reader. When he relocates to UK, a former terrorist acquittance, who happened to have a notebook in a Bahrain prison containing his phone number, calls him to ask for help in the organisation of a plot in UK. It feels to me like a plot for a cheap thriller. By the end I lost the interest and trust in any of his stories. He might be a very important spy but only future, and well researched books on Al Qaeda will clarify it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    A very interesting book. "Dean" (an assumed name for obvious reasons) is a a highly intelligent middle class Bahraini raised in Saudi Arabia who in the religious fervour and turmoil of a childhood cut short by the early deaths of his parents went o Bosnia at 16 to fight for fellow Muslims. His photographic memory that had enabled him to memorise the Koran at 12 made him pick up battlefield skills, firing mortars, reading maps etc quickly. After making contacts in Bosnia he went to Azerbaijan and A very interesting book. "Dean" (an assumed name for obvious reasons) is a a highly intelligent middle class Bahraini raised in Saudi Arabia who in the religious fervour and turmoil of a childhood cut short by the early deaths of his parents went o Bosnia at 16 to fight for fellow Muslims. His photographic memory that had enabled him to memorise the Koran at 12 made him pick up battlefield skills, firing mortars, reading maps etc quickly. After making contacts in Bosnia he went to Azerbaijan and the Phillipines (to fight with the local Islamic group in Mindinao who are hilariously acronymed MILF) where hepicks up more experience and contacts. It's jarring how easy it was to travel about as a young jihadi in the late nineties from one hotspot to another by commerical aircraft. He ends up in Pakistan and eventually Afghnaistan where he meets Bin Laden twice and swears an oath of jihad (or something similar, technically it maybe something different) to the Al Quaeda leader himself. It's intersting to hear the rival views of other leaders in the group, another prominent cleric is highly critical of OBL for being based in Afghanistan and ruining the chances of the Taleban making a success of the place becasue of his terrorist jihad. It's notable how many leaders the bookish author talks to who are either disdainful of, or troubled by, the many ignorant and/or psycopathic fellow jihadis who are there becasue their own personal issues. The Western convert jihadis are often the worst becasue they are converts who have screwed up their lives and seeking a casue and to atone. These people leave the author unsettled but ot is the Kenya bombngs by AQ that really trouble him, as a scholar and raised in a rounded - if conservative -Muslim tradition he is distressed by the murder of innocent civilians and studiously researchs the various (spurious) fatwas cited by scholars to justify the killings. A medical problem forces him to return for medical treatment in Qatar where he is picked up by the security forces who then proudly pass him along to the British, where he has chosen to go rather than the French or - God forbid - the Americans. He doesnt know why he cooses the British "maybe it was spy movies" he muses and he certainly seems quite an anglophile. YOu can't help thinking that the posh MI6 handlers who take him over are playing their role to the hilt. He loves London, the mixture of people, the tolerance of the British. He supplies useful information on his bomb making teacher in Afhghanistan as well as other good information and is then asked to infiltrate the "Londonistan" Islamic scene which is thriving thanks to the UKs traditional liberal approach to free speech. With his sterling credentials he is respected and becomes part of the scene. He is bemused by the readical clerics like Abu Hamza who have very narrow blinkered views of Islam and are preaching to alienated young men, he says they are even worse than Wahabis. Interesting that his career as a spy gets shortened - almost certainly - by VP Cheney's amateur intelligence shop run out of the WH as reported in Ron Suskinds The One Percent Doctrine (which Iread at the time, was a bit obsessed with him, he was interviewed on Democracy Now a bit back in the day. Another reason to hate Cheney. Fascinating that after going private he was employed by the Chinese SS to report on the native Uyghur threat. He implores them to use honey to buy off the militants rather than force which is grumpily dismissed by the old timer Party man as he hands over an envelope stuffed full of $25,000 cash for the author to spend at Duty Free in Macau. The svelte young SS handler rolls her eyes at the old boy and tells him that the old party guys stick together and run things their way. Misc: disconcerting to have the Al Quaeda and Isis jihadis always fantasizing about the end of days when Jesus Christ would return and lead the Holy armies to liberate Jerusalem....I knew Jesus was an important prophet in Islam but didn't realise this bit. Loved how his wife threatened to make him wear a hijab if he ever tried to make her wear one during her wedding speech. Many of the hard core surrounding Bin Laden were Egyptians and viewed with skepticism by the Gulf Arabs. Memorable book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Annkathrin

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A blistering non-fiction account charting a life lived in the centre of a geopolitical hurricane involving battles between liberal democracies, despotic states and fundamentalist religion, manipulative interpretations of ideology, clumsy and disastrous Western foreign policy, and an internal struggle to do the right thing for one's faith. Aimen Dean leads you through his experiences starting as an impressionable Bahraini-born, Saudi-raised Arab who became a jihadi for what he believed were the ri A blistering non-fiction account charting a life lived in the centre of a geopolitical hurricane involving battles between liberal democracies, despotic states and fundamentalist religion, manipulative interpretations of ideology, clumsy and disastrous Western foreign policy, and an internal struggle to do the right thing for one's faith. Aimen Dean leads you through his experiences starting as an impressionable Bahraini-born, Saudi-raised Arab who became a jihadi for what he believed were the right reasons, but was later disturbed by the horrors his religion was being stretched to justify, and consequently agreed to spend years working with the British intelligence services as of the few spies the West had within al-Qaeda. For each chapter in his unique and dangerous journey, he offers insights into the social, ideological, cultural and political context that gave rise to al-Qaeda's power, beginning from the cradles of international jihad in Bosnia and Afghanistan in the 1990s, through to the fundamentalist factions, offshoots and nightmares that have developed in modern-day Syria and Iraq. He exposes the psychology of jihadis as both vulnerable and disillusioned individuals and as disturbingly dark and reprehensible strategists who use dubious Machiavellian interpretations of the Qur'an, the hadith and its prophecies to meet their political ends, and gives the reader a nuanced, in-depth understanding of the evolution of jihad, the efforts and shortcomings of the intelligence and security services, and the triggers that led to events still haunting societies around the world today, both Arab and Western, Muslim and non-Muslim. The book covers a vast range of events and issues over three decades, and deftly bridges both the global/political and the personal/intimate sides of this struggle for identity and freedom. I would highly recommend it to anyone seeking to become better informed about the context surrounding major modern conflicts, islamophobia, religious fundamentalism and international politics.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Hicklin

    DID NOT FINISH. Will definitely come back to this but thought this was going to be more of an exploration of his life. Feel as though this could be a lot shorter as I found myself getting a little lost 😭

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marisa

    4.5 stars.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Smith

    I'd give this six stars if I could. It's blinking amazing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rohit

    Extraordinary story. All I can think right now is that if Aimeen Dean's identity had not been leaked, could the world have been different than what it is today?

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    This book is worth it, if only for the author's end reflections based upon 20 years experience in Islamic conflict.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dominique

    A 4.5 rating really. A bit long and at times I got confused with the people mentioned but the author's story is amazing. The book provides a really interesting insight into jihad, with very thoughtful reflections at the end. Highly recommend!

  22. 4 out of 5

    David W Sewart

    As good or better than fiction. Excellent information about jihadi terrorism from a jihadi terrorist. Good stuff.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    The touching and exhillerating story of an al-Qaeda operative-come-MI6 spy. This book is densely packed with a whole heap of extremely useful information which will catapult your understanding of the founding of extremist Islam groups, and how this has essentially led to a sectarian, fragmentated Islam. Aimen, whilst fighting for al-Qaeda, became dismayed and disillusioned as he noticed the slaughtering of innocents and the barbaric treatment of POWs, as well as the nonchalant talk of using WMDs The touching and exhillerating story of an al-Qaeda operative-come-MI6 spy. This book is densely packed with a whole heap of extremely useful information which will catapult your understanding of the founding of extremist Islam groups, and how this has essentially led to a sectarian, fragmentated Islam. Aimen, whilst fighting for al-Qaeda, became dismayed and disillusioned as he noticed the slaughtering of innocents and the barbaric treatment of POWs, as well as the nonchalant talk of using WMDs and the creation of poison gasses. The religion he loved so dearly was being twisted, with various theologians re-writing scripture in order to justify the slaughter of non-muslims (and muslims which are of different sects), and their aims to precreate the conditions needed for the final battle for Jerusalem (which is supposed to only happen when God wills it). Aimen made a decision to leave al-Qaeda, eventually being hired by MI6, where he continually produced pivotal intelligence which would lead to a very accurate spiders-web of information on various key al-Qaeda and Taliban members, from general operators to management who spoke directly with Osama bin Laden. If you're at all interested in the conflict going on in the middle-east, you're probably going to need to read far more books than this, but nonetheless this is a very good start.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carlee

    I thought this book was very well-written. This book is a memoir about Aimen Dean's time as a jihadist, first fighting in Bosnia when he was just 16, and then joining Al Qaeda and meeting Osama bin Laden. He decides to leave Al Qaeda, in part, because he disagrees about women and children being acceptable collateral damage, and that even in jihad, they should treat their opponents with mercy. He becomes a spy / mole for the British intelligence service and is able to help foil some major terrori I thought this book was very well-written. This book is a memoir about Aimen Dean's time as a jihadist, first fighting in Bosnia when he was just 16, and then joining Al Qaeda and meeting Osama bin Laden. He decides to leave Al Qaeda, in part, because he disagrees about women and children being acceptable collateral damage, and that even in jihad, they should treat their opponents with mercy. He becomes a spy / mole for the British intelligence service and is able to help foil some major terrorist attempts. The book does a good job about presenting what has happened in the Middle East from 1979 to present day, explaining how terrorist groups twist the words of the Quran to justify their power-hungry criminal activities, and gives ideas about how to defeat terrorist groups in the future. One thing that struck me was how much he wanted martyrdom (obviously we hear this is a goal for many) but how he wanted it so quickly. I think after his first gun battle, he was disappointed that God had not chosen him for martyrdom. What can we do about people, mostly young men, who are willing to die so readily? The one complaint I had about the book was the audiobook was a bit slow. I listened to it at 2x speed and that helped.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Kelly

    Overall, this was an interesting and thought-provoking book. It offers an insight into al-Qaeda that only a member would know, making its observations unique and profond. As one who studies counterterrorism, specifically what went wrong with Western efforts before and after 9/11, this book highlights the glaring policy, prioritizing, and tactical issues. I thought the chapter division into Dean’s “9 lives” was an interesting set-up, though I think that some of the information in the end reflectio Overall, this was an interesting and thought-provoking book. It offers an insight into al-Qaeda that only a member would know, making its observations unique and profond. As one who studies counterterrorism, specifically what went wrong with Western efforts before and after 9/11, this book highlights the glaring policy, prioritizing, and tactical issues. I thought the chapter division into Dean’s “9 lives” was an interesting set-up, though I think that some of the information in the end reflection would have been better suited for earlier in the book. Sometimes I had trouble connecting with Dean as a narrator, and while that’s probably due to the difficulty of condensing a complicated life into one novel, there were times the tone of his writing didn’t click with the emotion he was trying to convey. Additionally, since the book is in more of a memoir format, one can’t be sure if he’s downplaying or overstating certain parts of the story like with an academically researched piece of literature. Still, it makes for an informative primary source and personalizes the conflicts represented in the story. If you’re someone interested in counterterrorism, the Middle East, or conflict studies, I would recommend this book as an enhancer to prior knowledge about these areas.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Serena Kim

    Overall, an interesting look into Al Qaeda operations, specifically with regards to 9/11 and the early stages of ISIS. An additional aspect of interest is the author's growing disillusion with Al Qaeda and their philosophy. Without giving away too much, the narrative does an excellent job of highlighting the value of Human Intelligence, which is arguably a drying art in today's technological world. It also exposes the frailty of these insider assets in their environment, emphasizing the "need to Overall, an interesting look into Al Qaeda operations, specifically with regards to 9/11 and the early stages of ISIS. An additional aspect of interest is the author's growing disillusion with Al Qaeda and their philosophy. Without giving away too much, the narrative does an excellent job of highlighting the value of Human Intelligence, which is arguably a drying art in today's technological world. It also exposes the frailty of these insider assets in their environment, emphasizing the "need to know" requirement. There are a lot of contacts/individuals mentioned so following the names and understanding their significance can be tricky.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Whitworth

    A great read that follows the descent of Aimen into jihadi campaigns, his realization as to the evil that he is supporting and his growing desire to combat this through helping MI5 and MI6. It was a fascinating insight into another world and the true extent of the networks of Islamic extremism in the West and London in particular. I also found Aimen's principles for counteracting radicalisation eye-opening and food for thought. This was a gripping page turner, though I would recommend not to rea A great read that follows the descent of Aimen into jihadi campaigns, his realization as to the evil that he is supporting and his growing desire to combat this through helping MI5 and MI6. It was a fascinating insight into another world and the true extent of the networks of Islamic extremism in the West and London in particular. I also found Aimen's principles for counteracting radicalisation eye-opening and food for thought. This was a gripping page turner, though I would recommend not to read on a plane, as this caused my fellow passenger to want to leave the palne before boarding and a 2 hour delay.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book was quite an interesting read. Aimen started out as an impressionable young man who left home to wage jihad at the age of 16. By the time he was 20, he experienced a change of heart and realized that al Qaeda was not what he originally thought. His connections within al Qaeda made it possible for him to offer unparalleled insight to the British and Americans at a time when both governments seriously underestimated the impact al Qaeda and later ISIS could have.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Hooton

    Having read many a politicos book or even military bio on 9/11 and the counter terrorism operations that followed, they all read to the west’s ideals or over simplify the events. Aimen writes with a refreshing take (that is likely more accurate) not only those fateful days but how a middle class boy from the Middle East became a jihad and the eternal debate of what’s next for those nations. Thoroughly enlightening I would recommend but only if you’re open to a new perspective.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Les Gehman

    It took me a long time to get through this book. There's a lot to absorb here, and there are hundreds of characters that are easily confused. That said, this is an incredible look into the inner workings of al-qaeda, including a lot of detail. The book is a bit self-aggrandizing, and I have a hard time believing that it's 100% true and unvarnished, but it is still a worthwhile read.

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