The suicide bombing on a CIA base in Afghanistan last week was carried out by a Jordanian doctor who was an al-Qaida double agent, Western intelligence officials told NBC News.The Jordanian intel officer happens to be a relative to Jordan's King Abdullah and the Jordanians responded to his death with a state funeral.
Initial reports said that the attack, which killed seven CIA officers, was carried out by a member of the Afghan National Army.
According to Western intelligence officials, the perpetrator was Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, 36, an al-Qaida sympathizer from the town of Zarqa, which is also the hometown of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant Islamist responsible for several devastating attacks in Iraq.
Al-Balawi was arrested by Jordanian intelligence more than a year ago. However, the Jordanians believed that al-Balawi had been successfully reformed and brought over to the American and Jordanian side, setting him up as an agent and sending him off to Afghanistan and Pakistan to infiltrate al-Qaida.
His specific mission, according to officials, was to find and meet Ayman al Zawahiri, al-Qaida’s No. 2, also a physician.
However, the Al-Jazeera Web site quoted a Taliban spokesman who said al-Balawi misled Jordanian and U.S. intelligence services for a year. The spokesman, Al-Hajj Ya'qub, promised to release a video confirming his account of the attack.
Jordan's official news agency, Petra, said bin Zeid was killed "on Wednesday evening as a martyr while performing the sacred duty of the Jordanian forces in Afghanistan" and provided no further details about his death. Local news reports quoted family members as saying bin Zeid had been in Afghanistan for 20 days and had been scheduled to travel home on the day of the bombing.Jordan has been working closely with the US to thwart al Qaeda attacks, and that has also meant that al Qaeda has put Jordan in the crosshairs, including a 2005 bombing at an Amman hotel that killed more than 50.
His coffin's arrival in Amman on Saturday was handled with unusual pomp, with Jordan's King Abdullah II and his wife, Rania, personally presiding over a funeral and burial in a military cemetery.
Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said the special relationship with Jordan dates back at least three decades and has recently progressed to the point that the CIA liaison officer in Amman enjoys full, unescorted access to the GID's fortress-like headquarters. The close ties helped disrupt several known terrorist plots, including the thwarted 2000 "millennium" conspiracy to attack tourists at hotels and other sites. Jordanians also provided U.S. officials with communications intercepts in summer 2001 that warned of terrorist plans to carry out a major attack on the United States.
I fear we may see more of these kinds of attacks as the US and other intel services attempt to cultivate agents and associations with those with access to al Qaeda's hierarchy and some of them turn out to be double agents. It puts the CIA and other intel agencies at risk, not only with dubious intel, but puts their agents on the front lines at risk of suicide bombings and other attacks.
It also shows the difficulties in trying to infiltrate these terror organizations, and the lengths to which we and our allies have gone to make the attempt.