US intelligence sources have named the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA agents and a Jordanian intelligence officer at a secret CIA facility in Afghanistan on Dec. 30 as Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, 36, a Jordanian medical doctor. He had been accepted by the CIA as a double agent and undertaken to find al Qaeda's No. 2, the Egyptian physician, Ayman al-Zawahri, and win his trust before killing him.
Balawi gained access to the Forward Operation Base Chapman in the remote province of Khost by saying he had urgent information about the mission to pass on to the CIA contingent.
His Jordanian victim was Capt. Sharif Ali bin Zeid, a captain in intelligence and cousin of Hashemite king Abdullah, who had been aiding the US covert Afghan/Pakistan effort against al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Those sources report that the suicide killer came from the same Jordanian town of Zarqa as al Qaeda's last Iraq commander, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whom the Americans killed in 2006. They were good friends. More than a year ago, Balawi was picked up by Jordanian security. He persuaded them he was ready to go over to the Jordanian and American side and infiltrate al Qaeda on their behalf in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Fellow Jordanian Capt. Bin Zeid was to be the controller of the Zawahri mission and signal Balawi when the moment came to kill Osama bin Laden's lieutenant.
debkafile's counter-terror sources note that if this account is accurate, its implications for the war on Islamist terror are dramatic:
1. It represents the US intelligence agency's first success since 9/11 in getting a penetration agent close enough to al Qaeda's high command for an assassination bid.
2. The sparse information released on the case implies that the Americans are now willing to use a suicide killer if necessary to target a high-profile terrorist chief.
3. The extreme usefulness of Jordanian intelligence in the war on jihadist terror is underscored once again. Jordanian agents' success in penetrating Zarqawi's inner circle in Iraq and pinpointing his location was the crucial factor in the US success in liquidating him. The Jordanians appear to be playing a similar role in Afghanistan.
4. However, al Qaeda is a match for the Americans in intelligence savvy. At some point, Bin Laden's men managed to turn the renegade Balawai round again and instruct him to kill his Jordanian controller Capt. Bin Zeid instead of Zawahri.
5. In recent years, the Jordanian-al Qaeda feud was conducted through covert byways. At Base Chapman, it surfaced and the gloves were removed. Bin Laden will no doubt seek bloody revenge for the Hashemite throne's involvement in the plot to assassinate his second-in-command.