Suicide bomber at US base in Afghanistan was al-Qaeda double agent

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Media in the United States says a suicide bomber who attacked a Central Intelligence Agency base in eastern Afghanistan last week was a Jordanian working as an al-Qaeda double agent.

The reports say current and former Western intelligence officials identified the suicide bomber as Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a 36-year-old physician and al-Qaeda sympathizer from Zarqa, Jordan.

U.S. television network NBC says Jordanian authorities arrested al-Balawi more than a year ago and later recruited him to infiltrate al-Qaeda, believing he had been successfully reformed. Due to his medical background, it is believed his mission was to find and meet Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's second-in-command. The CIA declined to comment on the reports.

According to multiple sources, al-Balawi posted online in jihadist forums under the name Abu Dujanah al-Khurasani. One post by him read, "When a fighter for God kills a U.S. soldier on the corner of a tank, the supporters of Jihad have killed tens of thousands of Americans through their connection to the opposition."

"When a fighter for God kills a U.S. soldier on the corner of a tank, the supporters of Jihad have killed tens of thousands of Americans through their connection to the opposition."

—Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi posting on a forum as Abu Dujanah al-Khurasani

Jarret Brachman, consultant to the US government on terrorism said in a telephone interview to The New York Times, "He’s one of the most revered authors on the jihadists' forums. He’s in the top five jihadists. He's one of the biggest guns out there."

Evan Kohlmann, who tracks jihadi Web sites for NBC News said, "He was actually an administrator on the now-defunct Al-Hesbah forum, previously al-Qaeda's main chat forum."

The bombing last Wednesday at the CIA base, known as Forward Operating Base Chapman, in Afghanistan's Khowst province killed seven CIA employees and a Jordanian officer.

The U.S. military's intelligence chief in Afghanistan has criticized the work of U.S. intelligence agencies operating there, saying they are "ignorant" and out of touch with the Afghan people. General Michael Flynn says U.S. intelligence efforts have focused too much on gathering information about insurgent groups in Afghanistan.

He says U.S. intelligence has been unable to inform U.S. and NATO forces about the environment in which they operate and the Afghan people whom they seek to persuade. His comments were published in a report issued Monday by a U.S. think tank, the Center for a New American Security.

The bodies of the seven CIA employees killed in the Khowst attack arrived Monday at a U.S. Air Force base in the East Coast state of Delaware. A small, private ceremony was held at the base, attended by friends and family and CIA Director Leon Panetta.

The bombing was the second-deadliest attack in the U.S. intelligence agency's history. In a statement, CIA spokesman George Little described the fallen employees as "patriots who courageously served their nation."

In message to employees the day after the bombing, Panetta said, "Those who fell yesterday were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that must be done to protect our country from terrorism."

Jordan's state news agency, Petra, identified the Jordanian officer killed in the bombing as Sharif Ali bin Zaid. It says he was killed while "performing the sacred duty of Jordanian forces in Afghanistan." NATO says Jordan has seven troops in Afghanistan.

NBC News says Bin Zaid was an intelligence agent and a first cousin of Jordan's King Abdullah II. Both the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack.