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Ali Soufan’s Anatomy of Terror, which charts the rise of ISIS (Da’esh), has won the inaugural Airey Neave Prize in the UK, worth £5,000 (AED 24,500). The prize is awarded annually to a work of non-fiction which the judging panel considers to have made the most ‘significant, original, relevant, and practically valuable contribution to the understanding of terrorism’. Soufan, who is Lebanese/American, received the prize in London from Julian Enoizi, CEO of Pool Reinsurance Company (known as Pool Re), the UK’s leading terrorism cover provider. The prize is named after the British MP Airey Neave who lost his life in a car bomb attack at the House of Commons in 1979 for which the Irish National Liberation Army claimed responsibility.

Anatomy of Terror was first published in May and has received numerous accolades, including outstanding reviews in The New York Times and The New Yorker. The book traces the rise of ‘Da’esh’ following the Arab Spring and the death of Bin Laden and sheds light on the histories, personalities and motivations of the leading characters of Islamist terrorism today.

Ed Butler, a trustee of the Airey Neave Trust and Head of Risk Analysis at Pool Re, said: “Ali Soufan’s book is an outstanding piece of writing, drawing on first-hand experience and meticulous research. Since its foundation, The Airey Neave Trust has always recognised the vital role that authors and academia play in understanding the drivers of terrorism and, importantly, how these threats can be mitigated. Ali Soufan has addressed many of these and we are delighted to recognise Anatomy of Terror as the winning book.”

Soufan, who is a terrorism expert and former FBI agent, said: “In so many ways, terrorism consumes many of the views, many of the fears, and much of the politics we’ve seen in recent years. And yet, 16 years after 9/11, we still don’t fully understand our enemy. People fear the unknown and our role, as experts and as leaders, should be to light a candle towards this darkness.

Our aim should be to evoke empathy in the sense of understanding terrorism on a deep level. That’s what I wanted to do in Anatomy of Terror – to understand their psyche and their history, and the way that terrorists view the world.”

Born in Lebanon in 1971, Soufan grew up during the civil war when the destruction he saw all around him, and the chaos and lawlessness that prevailed, was a breeding ground for terrorists and may have influenced his later choices. The family came to the US in 1987 where he studied International Relations at Villanova University, near Philadelphia. He says he greatly admired the Constitution of his adopted country and after graduation he sent his CV to the FBI – not expecting to be called for an interview. He joined the service in 1997 and supervised counterterrorism operations during the investigation into the 9/11 bombings, proving instrumental in identifying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of the attacks. He stayed in the FBI until 2005 when he founded the Soufan Group which provides ‘strategic security intelligence services to governments and multinational organizations’. Soufan has offices in New York, London, Doha and Singapore.

Arabic rights to the title have not been sold yet, but Soufan’s previous book The Black Banners: The Inside story of 9/11 and the War against al-Qaeda was published by All Prints in Lebanon.

Commenting on receiving the prize Soufan said: “I am very pleased to have been awarded the inaugural prize and look forward to continuing the work, with the help of the Airey Neave Memorial Trust, of educating our society about terrorism and, in so doing, helping to combat the threat.”