Terrorist Turned Spy Recalls Meeting Bin Laden And Leaving Al-Qaeda For Secret Service

by : Hannah Smith on : 15 Feb 2021 11:12
Terrorist Turned Spy Recalls Meeting Bin Laden And Leaving Al Qaeda For Secret ServiceUNILAD/PA

A former Al-Qaeda terrorist who became a spy for MI6 has revealed what it was like to infiltrate the organisation he used to belong to.

Aimen Dean, who spent several years working for Al-Qaeda after being recruited by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was tapped by the British secret service after he ‘jumped ship,’ and went on to spend almost a decade gathering intelligence from inside the training camps.


Speaking in a new episode of UNILAD’s ‘Minutes With’ series, Dean says he never fit the typical profile of an Al-Qaeda jihadist, but went on to be involved in a wide range of tasks, from bomb-making as an explosives expert, to testing chemicals weapons and poisons on animals.

Dean also revealed that when he first met Osama Bin Laden in 1996, he did not come across as the terrorist mastermind that would later become one of the most feared people in the world. ‘The first time I met him was just when he had arrived in Afghanistan in 1996… they looked like refugees, they looked dishevelled,’ he says. ‘The first impression wasn’t great in terms of appearance but the way he spoke was quite powerful.’

Having joined Al-Qaeda in the mid-90s, Dean said he had no idea of the atrocities that the group would go on to commit, saying Bin Laden’s ideas ‘sounded like the dreams of a lunatic, but this lunatic in five years time would go on to change the course of history’.


Dean left the organisation shortly after its first international attack, realising that he was on the wrong side of history following the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. ‘What we were doing here was not the act of revolutionaries or insurgents, it’s more or less pure terrorism,’ he said.


Almost immediately after leaving Afghanistan, Dean was sent back to observe and pass on intelligence for MI6. ‘I didn’t wake up one day and decide to become a spy,’ he said, ‘just as I didn’t wake up one day four years earlier and decide to become a terrorist. You just slip into these things’.

In eight years spying for British intelligence, Dean says he was able to provide information that prevented two attacks in New York and London in the years after 9/11, and also claims that his spying resulted in the deaths of two high ranking officials in Saudi Arabia. And although infiltrating a terrorist training camp comes with massive risks, Dean said he couldn’t afford to be nervous, comparing spying to bomb-making: ‘The first mistake is your last mistake.’


Since he was exposed as a spy by the CIA, Dean says Al-Qaeda has tried to kill him twice, but he revealed he has no regrets over his work for MI6. ‘Its a badge of honour as far as I’m concerned’ he says. ‘Al-Qaeda, ISIS and any other terrorist organisation are the trues enemies. Betraying them is an act of honour’.

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Topics: Life, 9/11, Al-Qaeda, Now, Terrorism


  1. UNILAD/YouTube

    Life As A Spy Inside Al-Qaeda | Minutes With | UNILAD