Born in Denmark, lived in Yorkshire, led the CIA to al-Qa'ida's leader in Yemen

Jonathan Brown on the extraordinary double life of motorcycling outdoor pursuits enthusiast Morten Storm

When Morten Storm arrived in Luton ten years ago he cut quite a swathe. The beared former cage fighter had served a prison sentence in his native Denmark but said he had put a life of drugs and crime behind him. He had also converted to Islam.

At first the ex-biker appeared to embrace the moderate teachings of his Islamic centre, but before long he was an outspoken supporter of extremist groups such as al-Muhajiroun and a devoted follower of Osama bin Laden – even naming his eldest son after the late al-Qa'ida leader.

But the truth was far more complex. While posing as a radical Islamist known as Murad Danish, Storm was actually a CIA agent who played a crucial role in the US fatal drone attack on Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, he claimed yesterday.

In a series of interviews with the Danish media, the 36-year-old said he had exploited his friendship with the US-born al-Qa'ida chief to help in the assassination of the radical cleric last year. Storm claims he located Awlaki using an encrypted USB device passed to one of the militant cleric's messengers during a visit to Yemen in 2011. Awlaki is alleged to have orchestrated attacks on Western targets including one involving underpants bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab.

According to the newspaper Jyllands-Posten, since 2006 Storm was under the command of a joint CIA, MI6 and the Danish Intelligence Service PET operation to infiltrate the highest echelons of al-Qa'ida. But he later fell out with his US handlers after they appeared to renege on the offer of a reward for killing Awlaki.

Storm is now thought to be in hiding, but attention is focusing on his life in Britain. The Independent has learnt that he rented an area of woodland near Wetherby, West Yorkshire, where he intended to carry out training on behalf of his outdoor pursuits company.

However, although he conducted a couple of exploratory exercises there, he disappeared without paying his rent last year. Locals described him as a plausible figure who never revealed his Islamic faith.

The website of his company, Storm Outdoors, refers to the founder's experience travelling in some of the world's "most hostile environments" and living among Bedouin tribes in North Yemen.

For much of his time in the UK, he lived in Luton, where he drew attention by proclaiming radical views at a time when community leaders were trying to keep a lid on extremism in the wake of 7/7. Storm also coached young Muslims to box, learnt Arabic and described himself as a "holy warrior" helping recruit members for groups such as the now banned al-Muhajiroun, it is claimed.

Farasat Latif of the Luton Islamic Centre said he initially found Storm to be "friendly and very jolly" but the pair rapidly fell out over his extreme views. "He loved the attention. He first introduced himself as an ex-member of a biker gang and told me about his escapades. But he said he wanted to put all that behind him and become a good Muslim," he said.

But within six months Storm was accusing mosque leaders of apostasy – while spying for the intelligence services.

"Morten Storm not only infiltrated extremist groups in Luton, he promoted them, helped them recruit members, and aided them in theologically refuting their opponents. In short, while he was doing the CIA's dirty work in Yemen, he gave religious extremism a huge boost in Luton," said Mr Latif.

Community members were baffled that the father of two, who had to borrow money to buy nappies for his children, was able to afford to travel to Yemen.

Storm claims to have first met Awlaki in 2006 in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. He said the intelligence organisations "knew that Anwar saw me as his friend and confidant. They knew that I could reach him, and find out where he stayed".

The first plan was to plant a tracking device on the militant cleric who by 2009 was living in the remote Shabwa province. Their final meeting was at the home of a sympathiser in September that year, during which Morten claims Awlaki discussed plans for "poison attacks" on Western shopping centres.

When he returned to Copenhagen he met PET and the CIA who identified the house where they had met using satellite pictures. The premises were later destroyed by Yemeni security forces. In April 2011 Storm claims to have held another meeting with agents at a hotel in Helsingor, eastern Denmark where the plan to pass a USB stick to Awlaki was hatched.

At a meeting with a US official after Awlaki's death, Storm claims he was told his work had been recognised. A recording he made caught the official saying: "I'm talking about the President of the United States. He knows you. So the right people know your contribution. And we are grateful."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Barnardo's: Corporate Audit and Inspection – Retail Intern (Leeds)

Unpaid - £4 lunch allowance plus travel to and from work: Barnardo's: Purpose ...

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Receptionist

£15000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future