(The New York Times ) BAGHDAD — The driver was sweating as his white Kia pickup truck sped along a rain-slicked Baghdad highway toward a neighborhood bustling with open-air markets.
With every jolt and turn, his pulse quickened. Hidden in the truck’s chassis was 1,100 pounds of military-grade explosives that ISIS planned to use in an audacious attack on New Year’s Eve shoppers in the Iraqi capital.
A reckless driver on Iraq’s notoriously chaotic roads might clip him, accidentally setting off the bomb. A clash at one of Baghdad’s frequent checkpoints could escalate into gunfire, potentially igniting one hellish fireball.
For the past 16 months, he had worked as a mole, posing as a militant jihadist in ISIS while passing critical information to a secret branch of Iraq’s national intelligence agency.
His record was stunning: He had foiled 30 planned vehicle-bomb attacks and 18 suicide bombers, according to Abu Ali al-Basri, the agency’s director. Captain Sudani also gave the agency a direct line to some of ISIS senior commanders in Mosul.
A 36-year-old former computer tech, he was, agency officials said, perhaps Iraq’s greatest spy, one of a few in the world to have infiltrated the upper reaches of ISIS.
But now, on this last day of 2016, as he cruised along the four-lane crosstown highway toward his assigned target, the markets of Baghdad al Jdeidah, he had a nagging suspicion that his cover had been blown.
Every day he remained embedded with ISIS was another day he risked his life. Today he had been caught in a small lie, the second in a matter of months.