A British secret agent abandoned by his MI6 spymasters to be tortured by the Taliban has lived to tell his incredible tale, only to the News of the World.
From his recruitment, through a series of body-littered missions to his eventual betrayal by a sinister henchman and his arrest and torture, Colin Berry relives his incredible story at machine-gun pace in his new book.
Our man Dan Evans picks up the smoking cartridges of a truly terrifying tale...
BRITISH secret agent Colin Berry squeezed the trigger of his 9mm Makarov as an Afghan bullet thudded into him, slamming him backwards on to the hotel bed.
Eight shots exploded from his pistol. And as the last spent cartridge clattered on to the floor amid a haze of cordite, the wounded MI6 spy knew it was time to escape from hell.
In Berry's room lay two dead Afghan chemical weapons dealers who had come to kill him—his cover blown after daredevil missions in which he:
STOPPED missiles from falling into the hands of al-Qaeda terrorists planning to shoot down jumbo jets
RISKED his life to locate Taliban fighters and arsenals—ending up in a terrifying mountain gun battle, and
TRAINED a force of Afghans to fight the Taliban—only to find them all beheaded after they set off on a mission.
But what Berry didn't know as he sat phoning for help while trying to stem the blood from his wounded side was that his masters in London were to betray him—and leave him to be tortured for SIX MONTHS in a Kabul jail.
"I was the perfect deniable agent for them," says Berry, 37. "They recruited me, told me I was doing work of national importance—and then dropped me in the s***."
Former Queen's Regiment soldier Berry says he was approached by MI6 in 2002 as he ran an engineering firm exporting housing to Afghanistan.
Spooks believed his job was perfect cover. Both they and the CIA wanted him to work with sinister Greek-Cypriot arms dealer Nikkos Nikolaides who had been caught plotting against British forces in Cyprus and turned double agent.
"We were told to get into the market and buy up systems like Stinger and Blowpipe (missiles) which the west had sold to the Mujahideen to down helicopters in the war against the Soviets," says Berry.
"Now we wanted them back before al-Qaeda got them." Nikolaides got the ball rolling soon after Berry arrived in Kabul.
"Colin, my friend, we're going to see a man about a missile," he said. An Afghan colonel handed it over near an art gallery. After Berry inspected the Stinger the man was given $300,000 in notes.
"This first buy established a pattern," says Berry. "The word went out about Nikos and me and we recovered eight Stingers, 25 Blowpipes, 20 Russian SA-7 Strela missiles and 30 RPG-18 anti-tank weapons."
Soon he was given more dangerous work. In December, 2002, he completed a nine-hour mission into the mountains to locate the exact GPS position of a secret al-Qaeda cell.
Then MI6 sent him to find a remote mountain pass being used by al-Qaeda to traffic raw opium. He had to flee an ambush by mountain bandits to get his valuable information back.
His next assignment was checking out a tunnel with a Scud missile hidden in it. Berry posed as an aid worker to get into the village guarding the tunnel entrance.
After getting the evidence he wanted at dead of night he and his guide Karsi left the next morning, only to be followed by two 4x4s packed with Kalashnikov-toting rebels who opened up.
"I shouted to Karsi, ‘We're going to have to take them out'. Then I leaned back and pulled out an AK-47 I had hidden under a blanket," says Berry.
He raced ahead and pulled off the road behind a rocky outcrop, leaping from the vehicle with his gun.
"As they came around the bend I let rip a long burst straight through the windscreen. As the 4x4 careered across the road I followed it with three to four bursts. It went into the ravine.
"The second car braked and I turned and raked it. Karsi and I looked in. All there was was smoke and burst raw innards. We pushed it into the ravine."
Berry was then approached by an Afghan general to train 20 of his men to cross into Pakistan and spy on an al-Qaeda HQ there. He kept the work at a mountain camp secret from Nikolaides who he had begun to suspect was double-crossing him.
Berry got close to the group's leader, Walheed. He had felt a fatherly worry for them all as he sent them towards the Pakistan border.
But when he lost radio contact with Walheed, he and Karsi knew something was wrong and set out to find them. "When I saw the vultures hovering my heart sank," he says. They found all 20 beheaded.
"Walheed had not had an easy death. He had been tortured and burned. The bottoms of his feet had been beaten," says Berry. The furious Afghan general blamed Nikolaides and the CIA.
If Berry had doubts that he was being double-crossed, they disappeared when two Afghan warlords, Sherjhan and Husseini, pulled guns on him as they met him at his room at Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel in February 2003 to sell him a chemical called Yellow Rain.
"I lunged forward and hit Husseini hard but his gun went off as he fell backwards into a chair and it felt as if something had been pulled backwards out of my side," says Berry.
"As I fell into the bed I pulled out my pistol and thought, f*** you—and shot Sherjhan first three times in the chest then Husseini three times as he got back up and tried to shoot me again. I finished him off with a bullet through the head."
Berry knew the game was up. CIA agents got him to hospital from where he expected MI6 to spirit him back home.
But instead he was arrested by local police, dragged in pain to their HQ and accused of being a spy.
Days later in a dingy room he had electrodes attached to his feet. "Admit you're an American spy," snapped the sinister general interrogating him.
"I shouted ‘I'm not... F***!' The pain as the current went through me was excruciating," says Berry. His torture went on for six months during which he was caged in a dark 4ft by 8ft cell with an earth floor and no bed or toilet.
When he attacked an officer and tried to escape, he was kicked to a pulp by other guards and then whipped across the back with a metal cable.
"I don't know how long this beating went on, but I lost consciousness," says Berry. He was so badly beaten he ended up in hospital where, at last, British Embassy officials visited him.
A deal was done with the Afghanistan government and Berry was released. His role has never been acknowledged by MI6.
"I'm not James Bond, but I depended on the people I was working for to come and get me out before things got too bad," says Berry.
"They didn't. The missions were real—but the back-up wasn't. And I paid for it."
Deniable Agent, published by Mainstream on October 5, can be ordered from the News of the World Bookshop for £16.19 with free delivery by calling 0870 162 5005. RRP is £17.99.