The suicide attacker who killed eight people in an attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan was a Jordanian who had been recruited by Jordanian intelligence as a double agent, US media said Monday.
NBC News cited western intelligence officials as saying the Jordanian, identified in the report as Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, had been brought to Afghanistan with the specific mission of finding and meeting Al-Qaeda number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
NBC said his handler in Afghanistan, a captain in the Jordanian intelligence services identified by the Jordanian state news agency Petra as Ali bin Zeid, was killed in the attack along with seven CIA officers.
“The officer was also a member of the Hashemite royal family, which is part of the reason the king and queen attended his funeral, and why he is being remembered as a national hero,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and White House adviser, told AFP.
Western intelligence officials told NBC that al-Balawi reportedly called his Jordanian handler last week to say he needed to meet with the CIA team based in Khost, Afghanistan because he had urgent information about Zawahiri, an Egyptian.
“The bomber allegedly was sent by Ayman Zawahiri himself to conduct the attack and claimed he had information on Zawahiri,” Riedel said, adding “that all remains unconfirmed as far as I know.”
There had been earlier reports that the suicide attacker was an informant who might not have been rigorously screened before being brought onto Forward Operating Base Chapman, a base in eastern Afghanistan that the CIA used for its campaign against militants on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Current and former US 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 GID headquarters, according to the report.
The close ties helped disrupt several known terrorist plots, including the thwarted 2000 “millennium” conspiracy to attack tourists at hotels and other sites, the paper pointed out.
Jordanians also provided US officials with communications intercepts in the summer of 2001 that warned of terrorist plans to carry out a major attack on the United States, The Post said.
After the September 11, 2001, attacks, Jordan agreed to create a bilateral operations center with the CIA and helped in interrogations of non-Jordanian suspects captured by the US Central Intelligence Agency and transferred to Jordan in now-famous “rendition” flights, the paper noted.