A Jihadi's Tale

Habib Abdurrahman bin Ismail serves coffee in tiny cups etched with Arabic blessings, coffee so strongly perfumed that perhaps it liberates a memory, because soon Habib is talking about his Afghan war and about how a man smells just before he dies. "It was the strangest thing," he says, recalling a bloody firefight at Mahmud-e-Raqi, a town northeast of Kabul. "If a Muslim brother was about to be martyred, even before the bullet hit him, he would smell wonderful, like dupa [an Indonesian incense]. Then we knew death was close."


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