Inside Al-Qaeda: The Real Lives Of Suicide Bombers In Syria

On May 20, Norwegian filmmaker Paul Refsdal was in a village in the northern Syria province of Aleppo when he heard an explosion. Camera in hand, he jumped into a white minibus driven by a fighter from the Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. The bus drove three miles to the nearby town of Tawama, where Refsdal—and the fighters he was with—inspected the damage.

A U.S.-led coalition airstrike had hit a base in the town, leaving at least 10 people dead. Refsdal’s footage shows fighters from the Nusra Front struggling to lift the rubble from their “brothers.” A clean-shaven civilian speaks angrily into the camera, saying the airstrike has targeted civilian homes and killed innocent people.

A Nusra fighter interrupts. “Easy now. There is both a military base and civilians here. Tell the truth. Tell them what happened,” he says, before adding that the blast’s intended target was, after all, a Nusra base. Refsdal understood the implicit message from the Al-Qaeda member: Film what you want—we’re not going to feed you propaganda.

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