See how suicide bombers prepare for death – filmed by their comrades

A group of young men play football with traffic cones for goalposts. They join in a wheelbarrow race, with some of them falling over before they reach the finish line.

Footage of their conversations contains too many minutes of the dashboard of their Nissan Qashqi.

Their tender and tentative bromance is carefully acknowledged when one says over the air “I love you all”.

But these are not ordinary blokes on a boozy trip to the West End.

They are trainee Al-Qaeda terrorists, in a Saudi training camp, preparing for death and the 72 virgins which their suicide bombing will bring.

They are the leads in Jonathan Hacker’s new documentary, Path of Blood, which was released in New York last week and was the subject of a Q&A at Brixton’s Ritzy cinema on July 13.

They plot to detonate car bombs in downtown Riyadh, become embroiled in a game of cat and mouse with Government forces, and as their plans unravel, resort to ever more brutal tactics.

Mr Hacker, who lives in West Dulwich, produced and directed the film almost entirely from footage shot by the terrorists themselves.

There are no silhouetted interviews with anonymous sources or talking heads arguing over motives. And some of the most powerful footage is of the back of a car seat – while the sound is of the terrorists jumping out of the same car and opening fire on their targets.

The footage was collected by former English language newspaper editor Abdulrahman Alrashed, who heard about the cache and persuaded the Saudi authorities to hand it over.

He asked Mr Hacker, pictured, who works for production company OR Media, to turn 500 hours of footage, in Arabic, into a 90-minute subtitled film – such documentaries would normally need a tenth of that at most.

Mr Hacker said: “There was a lot of dialect and slang used so it was a slog. But with footage like the back of the car seat, a lot of it was allowing the audience to use their imagination.

“I saw how astonishing the imagery was, how fresh it was, and how intimate it was. We had access behind the scenes with Al-Qaeda, with an intimacy that you would never ever have dreamed of seeing.

“I also thought it was important to have the security forces kneeling down and praying, cutting to the terrorists doing the same – the people on the front lines combatting the terrorists are in fact Muslims.

“Not only their victims, but the people tracking them, fighting them, trying to stop them: they’re all Muslims.

“For Al-Qaeda, martyrdom is a tangible end, which has a tangible result. They have no doubts. There are moments of religious ecstasy – which people rarely have these days.

“There was no footage of women – and I am sure a sexual psychologist would have a field day with that. Frustration must play a part in their motivation.

“But Gulf society is very gender segregated.

“Al-Qaeda want an autocratic Government – a caliphate. Democracy is anathema.

“Like Britain’s first terrorists, they are middle class – looking to prove themselves in some way. It seems to have a romantic appeal for them – an appeal to their destiny, which is very simplistic.

“We’ve got some funny scenes and then we’ve got scenes of unspeakable cruelty, Al-Qaeda killing and shooting innocent people.

“It’s important to see that those two things can coexist in the same individual, and I think that’s part of what we were trying to do, to see the terrorists as ordinary but corrupted human beings.

“I decided very early on not to pull any punches. Because these events are all seen in context, I felt that we were duty bound to be honest, even if it meant including some unpleasant scenes. It would be irresponsible to turn what Al-Qaeda does into some kind of sanitised ‘entertainment’.

“The result of their activities is endless bloodshed. Real human beings are being killed, including children.”

* Path of Blood is available on On Demand,  iTunes, Amazon, Google and BT.


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