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Inside the Jihad: My Life with Al Qaeda Paperback – January 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


"Inside the Jihad is the astonishing, well-told story of Omar Nasiri (a pseudonym), who penetrated al-Qaeda's training camps in Afghanistan in the mid 1990s as a spy for France's intelligence services. Al Qaeda defectors...have provided accounts of the Afghan camps, but nothing available publicly approaches the level of detail that Nasiri gives here." -- Washington Post, November 17, 2006

"Inside the Jihad reads like a John le Carre novel. It is replete with tales of phony passports, envelopes stuffed with cash and cloak-and-daggar meetings...Mr. Nasiri's account of the camps is detailed and chilling." -- New York Times, November 17, 2006

"A good read...the real value of Nasiri's memoir lies in the insight into the minds of young, mostly European Muslims." -- Middle East Quarterly

"It is a fascinating story of a man who says he betrayed his brothers to the police and then had contact with senior al Qaeda leaders at a terror training camp in Afghanistan -- all the while spying for French, British and German intelligence" --

From the Publisher

"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 #1 New York Times bestseller Taliban

"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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 357 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465023894
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465023899
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #811,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Mike Beri on November 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Inside the Jihad is a thrilling read from start to finish. Omar Nasiri didn't start out in the radical Islamic movement as a spy at all. He also didn't become a spy because he felt it was the right thing to do, he did it to save his life.

Omar's life wasn't normal for anyone, European or Arab. He was born in Morocco and when he was 5 his family moved to be with their father who had been working in Belgium for two years. However Omar had TB and was placed in a sanitarium. A sanitarium ran by Catholic nuns. Then at ten he went to live in a castle with 25 other foster boys. He did see his family rarely but he grew up westernized, having implications later on. The man who ran the castle, Edourd, took Omar under his wing. This included allowing Omar to shoot guns in the range provided he does his homework. However the one time he lied about completing his homework so he could shoot, Edourd found out, and said something to Omar he never forgot. Edourd said in anger that he would never amount to anything and Omar vowed to prove him wrong. He vowed to prove anyone wrong who ever underestimated him.

Omar then moved in with his family who by then returned to Morocco. He wasn't close to his family but then did something a good Muslim son shouldn't do. He stood up and assaulted his father after he gave one too many beatings to his mother. His mother then divorced and moved with the family back to Belgium. Omar stayed in Morocco.

Soon enough he was making money as the go-between for hashish dealers and the tourists. He learned the skills necessary to avoid arrest and spot buyers and sellers. These skills would eventually allow him entry to the camps.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Charles Peek on May 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Nasiri has definitely lived an amazing life as a spy for European anti-terrorism groups. He is also amazingly lucky. Everything seems to go his way, from being able to get into an Afghanistan jihadist camp by a chance encounter at an airport (after a pitstop in Pakistan). He blows his cover to two major people in the Islamic underground (and who happen to be later thrown in jail), but no one ever connects him to it (despite using their name to help him get close to some major people in the movement).

What strikes me the most about Nasiri is his own narcissism. He constantly argues with his handlers for not treating him with respect-by doing things such as asking too many questions. He gives out information that is very beneficial, but at the same time delivers a car bomb, but does not give out the name of the elderly man he gives it to because he is worried about his well-being. The car bomb kills people in Morocco and while Nasiri expresses guilt about the incident-he seems to miss the point that he could have stopped it from happening all along.

While I think Nasiri is telling the truth for the most part and his story is intriguing, in the back of my mind I keep on wondering how much of his story is true.

and I will leave with this one final thought. He talks about how when captured, a jihadist should always embellish the infomation to scare the opposition. He gives the example of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi giving false info about the Hussein-Al Qaeda connection. While Nasiri is not technically captured, he does feel that the West has captured the Muslim world and culture and has hurt it more then helped it. Nasiri might not be the best Muslim in the world, but it is what he believes and does want to defend it if it is attacked....could Nasiri be doing the same in his story?
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dave Buckley on March 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is not the strategic analysis of Jihad, not a religious text, but it is a great story about one man's life inside and outside of Jihad over the years. I found it exciting to read and actually felt the author's discomforts and risks.

If you are interested in learning a high level analysis of modern Jihad, militant Islam, read Imperial Hubris. This book partners well with that backdrop and steps inside the actual world of the training camps and breathes life into the personal struggles faced by many young Muslims.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Look At Me I'm Writing a Review on Amazon on December 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is kind of a middle-of-the-road book. Is it a thriller, a biography, or a serious examination of Islamic fundamentalism? In the end, it's almost like the book's three complete titles represent different conceptions about what the book is supposed to be about.

I was expecting a bit more insight into Islamic extremism when I picked the book up. Infiltration of "Al Qaeda" (a name "Nasiri" barely uses) is apparently rare, and provides an opportunity for truly unusual insight. The book certainly provides an interesting perspective from one unusual and fascinating individual, but doesn't provide much that's new to anyone who's read much on the subject, though for those who haven't, it's certainly a painless primer.

The personal narrative is probably the book's stronger point. It feels truthful and authentic; if "Nasiri" were going to embellish on the story, I'm sure it wouldn't end with his career as a spy petering out in such an undramatic fashion. There are plenty of entertaining anecdotes, and it's a very quick read, thanks in part to the very straight-forward writing. I read most of it in half a day of air travel.

There's a bit of a problem with the personal stuff, though- Nasiri can be awfully hard to sympathize with- and it's not because of who he is or what he does. His motives seem largely selfish, and while some of the intelligence people he deals with were no doubt unpleasant, he himself often comes off as arrogant and unwilling to compromise with handlers who have limited leeway in dealing with him. And worst of all is the slap-in-the-face last two pages, in which Nasiri self-righteously declares that his main interest in fighting extremism was to see that Islam does not sink to the level of the west.
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