They were lied to by leadership. They were given false hopes of glorious existence in eternity should they join the jihad and die as a martyr. They were duped.
It’s the background to the book, “Terrorists in Love,” being presented by its author, Ken Ballen, at the Fri., Sept. 7 meeting of the Alaska World Affairs Council at noon at the 49th State Brewing Company in Anchorage.
When published in 2012, the book was heralded for its riveting, behind-the-scenes look – much longer than a glimpse; as thorough as a government dossier without all the laborious legal speak – at just how the leadership of groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban intentionally prey upon the insecurities and challenging life circumstances of young Islamic men to guide them to commit terroristic atrocities not only to the “infidel” as those from the West are labeled, but even against their own ethnicity and nationality.
“Terrorists in Love accomplishes the extraordinary feat of delving deep into the inner lives of jihadists (Muslim holy warriors) in a way that has never been attempted before,” writes Peter Bergen in the book’s forward. Bergen is a national security analyst for CNN and a best-selling author with several biographies of terrorists to his credit. “Telling the interwoven life stories of six jihadists from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, the book tells us what’s important to them; what formed their characters; what beliefs drove them toward extremism and, as important, what turned them from a life of violence.”
The six men featured in Ballen’s book are each reformed terrorists. Some remain in psychiatric care in Saudi Arabia; others work within their home countries against extremist efforts by boldly sharing their stories of betrayal and torture at the hands of those still recruiting youth.
Their common thread: The promises made to them never were fulfilled.
One story details the life of the first suicide bomber survivor. Hailing from Saudi Arabia, he was supposed to go out in a blaze of glory to avenge alleged atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison – the site located west of Baghad, Iraq, where Saddam Hussein held his prisoners before U.S. military and its coalition forces took over the prison and held detainees there from 2003 to 2006.
Instead, two Iraqi counterparts bailed out of tanker truck carrying 26 tons of liquid explosives leaving him as the middle passenger to guide the truck to a concrete barrier where he had been told it was going to be parked. Instead, after the two others jumped, a remotely controlled explosion turned the tanker in to a fireball.
Instead of dying and collecting a bunch of beautiful virgins to attend to his every need in the afterlife, he survived. He was a charred mess – a literally barbecued human being with rotting flesh and agonizing months of recovery.
Severely disfigured, today he works against terrorist recruiters targeting young Saudis.
Another of the tales from Ballen’s book tells of an Islamic Romeo and Juliet type story. The young lovers are bonded in every way, except full consummation of their relationship. He cannot come up with the dowry money soon enough. Her father accepts a dowry from an older and wealthy – yet highly abusive man – and she is whisked away from the arms of the man she loves. His only hope, he is told by terror recruiters, is to die as a martyr and be reunited with her in the afterlife.
Ballen is the founder and president of the non-partisan, non-profit organization called Terror Free Tomorrow. He founded the group in 2004 after a decades-long career as a federal prosecutor handling international terrorist cases. He served as the Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Iran-Contra Committee in the role of lead investigator responsible for questioning witnesses during the nationally televised hearings.
Register to attend Ballen’s presentation online at: www.alaskaworldaffairs.org/events/terrorist-in-love-true-life-stories-of-islamic-radicals.