Face to Face With Terror

EXCLUSIVE As al-Zarqawi releases a new videotape, an Iraqi insurgent provides TIME with rare details of his encounters with al-Qaeda's boss

When he was picked for a secret mission one evening in early 2005, Ahmed Bakr felt no fear. He had been on many life-threatening assignments for al-Qaeda in Iraq. In comparison, taking a small package of high explosives to a village on the outskirts of Baghdad was almost an insult. "I thought, Why are they sending a fighter for such a simple job?" he says. But when he arrived at the given address, he began to sense that the mission might not be so petty after all. The modest house was guarded by fighters, one of whom recognized Bakr and waved...

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