Jihadi diary: Inside the mind of a Muslim terrorist

Until Thursday morning, the identity of Zeeshan Siddiqui, a 26-year-old British jihadi who has escaped his control order, was a closely guarded secret. The BBC has won the right to release his name, and has been given access to his diaries.

Cold, alone and suffering from terrible diarrhoea, Zeeshan Anis Siddiqui’s dream of being a heroic warrior in the name of God, was faltering.

“The greatest tests are truly to be soon alleviated and the greatest rewards will be given to those who bore them with patience only for the sake of Allah,” he comforts himself.

No running water, dreadful food and terrible neighbours who live in “filth”. Just another day in the utterly miserable existence of a would-be British jihadi who had given up the creature comforts of London surburbia to rough it in one of the poorest parts of Pakistan.

The BBC has won a legal battle to release his identity and thereby tell the story of Zeeshan Siddiqui, one of six men who have absconded from UK anti-terrorism control orders. And his story can be told thanks to a diary he kept in Pakistan after paramilitary training with British bomb plotters. The BBC obtained the diary and other papers on the 26-year-old through its court action.

Two of the men who trained with Zeeshan are better known. Mohammad Sidique Khan was the ringleader of the 2005 7 July suicide bombers. The second was Omar Khyam, the now jailed head of a plot to detonate a massive fertiliser bomb in England.

Zeeshan’s whereabouts are today unknown after he skipped his control order by jumping out of a window of a mental hospital in Britain in September 2006. He had been sectioned after suffering what he says were flashbacks of torture at the hands of the Pakistani authorities.

But back in March 2005 – two months before his arrest – he was consumed by anger, albeit often the result of rather prosaic events.

Having trained to fight – and built himself up psychologically to do so – he seemed to be lacking a definite target for his intentions. Many of his British contacts were in custody and the “brothers” he was associating with appear from the diaries to be heading nowhere.

Much ‘suffering’

And so, as his mind deteriorates at the same rate as his stomach, he convinces himself he is going through a test of faith that God has reserved for the chosen.

“Extremely cold and troublesome night,” he writes, occasionally invoking strong language. “Awoke first time after Fajr [dawn prayers] 0724 HRS then bk 2 sleep. Pain in head and flank.

“I’m covered in shit and there ain’t a drop of water. Only Allah knows the suffering I am going thru.

“He will not let the suffering of his believing slaves go to waste. Allah knows that the thing I hate most is being covered in filth.

“All alone in a strange land with strange ppl [people] and a strange language. I’m always constantly laughed at and ridiculed. I can trust no-one except Allah – for he alone is my only helping and protecting friend.”

While these do not appear to be the thoughts of a stone-cold killer, security officials judged him a sufficient risk on his return to the UK to place him on a control order, a version of house arrest.

By that time they had seen his diaries and probed his links with other extremists. He was questioned at length by the Pakistanis. British officials met him after the London suicide bombings. We don’t know what was asked or said because the government has blacked out those parts of the papers on national security grounds.

But during the dark days in Pakistan, he attacks local shopkeepers for being not as Islamic as he is because they play pop music. Others are con-men who are eating into his precarious finances. Muslims who don’t share his world view are unbelievers.

But most of all, he fears for his brothers-in-arms as the authorities close in.

Tube worker

“Found out some bad news. The relaxing place was done over. 7-8 of the guys taken whilst asleep. 2 others 72ed,” jihadi slang for killed, referring to “martyrs” rewarded with 72 virgins in paradise.

A key question for the British security services is whether Zeeshan himself was a potential suicide bomber. Evidence heard at the Old Bailey during the fertiliser bomb plot trial, which ended in April, suggested he was being groomed for that task because he worked as a London Underground station assistant. Zeeshan was said to have rejected the idea – but his diary reveals other thoughts.

“The armies of Islam are coming, we are ready. I must endure and outdo all the others in endurance. I will do what Allah has willed for me indeed only then will Allah make me successful both in this life and the next.”

And as his health finally improves, he concludes that God has singled him out for blessings and that he now must rejoin the cause.

“I can only repay this debt of gratitude by giving my life and blood for his cause. I just pray that Allah makes this path easy for me.”

Troubled man

Some days he busies himself with his potato plants and making furniture. Other days, when he is feeling down, he entertains himself with violent jihadi videos or the news. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a “black witch”. Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim Al Jaafari is a “dog of the hell fire, the Shatan [devil] used to live in Wembley.”

Peering into his mind through the diary, what emerges is an exceptionally troubled young man consumed with anger.

“I just can’t imagine how other Muslims… including my own brother can go about their daily lives as normal, rejecting the strife of the battlefield. Today Islam needs those who are prepared to fight to the death.

“I must rejoin my contingent I must make an all-out immense effort. I have come to the conclusion to just go for it.

“I am still allowing this world to overcome me… once I am back on the field Allah will improve my health automatically.

“Do not waiver or become weak against the enemy. This is the only way I can be reunited again with mummy and daddy in jannah [heaven].”

• Original title: Jihadi diary: Inside the mind

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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday June 17, 2007.
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