Who Was Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi? CIA Still Hunting for Clues on Afghanistan Terrorist Attack

In Other Terrorist Events, Pakistan and Afghanistan on January 8, 2010 at 9:20 am


AMMAN, Jordan — Another blog posting appeared Thursday under the name of Abu Dujana al-Khorasani, eight days after the man who used that pseudonym blew himself up at a secret C.I.A. outpost in eastern Afghanistan. The headline: “When will my words drink my blood?”

“My words will die if I do not save them with my blood,” read a posting that fellow jihadis on muslm.net said was written before the death of Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, 32, a Jordanian doctor of Palestinian origin who killed seven Americans and one Jordanian intelligence officer.

“My articles will be against me if I don’t prove to them that I am not a hypocrite,” the posting read. “One has to die to make the other live. I wish I could be the one to die.”

Most details about the explosion and the events leading up to it — both an embarrassment to American intelligence and an apparent blow to the hunt for Al Qaeda’s leadership — remain shrouded in secrecy. But this posting, if genuine, is one telling piece of a fuller picture emerging of Mr. Balawi, his motivations and movements, through statements from relatives, investigators and former colleagues.

His mother, Shanara, 64, described her son as such a loner that he would not even attend his sister’s birthday parties. His wife, Defne Bayrak, a Turkish journalist living in Istanbul, described him as affectionate with her and their two daughters and not violent. She said she last saw him when he left for Pakistan last March, saying he wanted to further his medical training. She said she was shocked at what he did but was “not ashamed.”

“He did it because he was a believer,” Mrs. Bayrak, who wrote a book comparing Osama bin Laden to Che Guevara, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Anatolian News Agency. “I am proud of him. He accomplished a major operation in such a war. May God accept his final prayer if he had become a martyr.”

Mr. Balawi appears to have covered his tracks and intentions with more than one story, which makes a clear account of his life difficult. There is general consensus that he disappeared from Jordan a year ago. There accounts diverge. The Jordanian authorities, and Mr. Balawi’s wife, say he went to Pakistan. His mother said he told his family he was going to Turkey, and planned to study medicine in America. His brother thought he was in Gaza.

The Jordanians thought he was working for them, and the Americans hoped he would provide vital intelligence on Al Qaeda’s deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.

The truth was exposed Dec. 30 when Mr. Balawi blew himself up in Afghanistan, killing the Americans and his Jordanian supervisor.

Other accounts differ: Jordanian officials say that Mr. Balawi was arrested by them in January last year and questioned about his jihadi writings. They say he left the country soon afterward, contacting them later by e-mail from Pakistan and volunteering information on Al Qaeda, information that the Jordanians considered valuable enough to share with American intelligence agencies.

But Mr. Balawi’s relatives say that he was detained after he volunteered to go to Gaza to treat Palestinians wounded during Israel’s offensive last winter, and that he emerged profoundly affected by his three days in Jordanian custody.

“He was always a loner. His sister would have a party and he would not go,” said his mother, who was dressed in black as she spoke Thursday in the doorway of the family home. “I would say, ‘Why are you like this?’ He said, ‘That’s me, that’s how I am.’ ”

But she said her son changed after his arrest, becoming more “strange.” Before he disappeared from Amman in February last year, he told his family that to move to the United States he had to take an exam on March 31 to establish his medical credentials.

But in February he abruptly left Jordan, telling them he was going to Turkey. Twenty days later, his mother said, he called with the message: “I passed the exam and I am going to America. Tomorrow I am going to book a trip to America.”

More than 700 miles away in Istanbul, Mr. Balawi’s wife, also dressed in black, insisted that her husband could not have been an agent of the United States because he hated what it stood for.

“I deny any possibility that my husband was an agent,” she told Turkish journalists in Fatih, a conservative neighborhood of Istanbul. “He was an enemy of the United States enough to disqualify him as an agent. He might have, however, used America and Jordan.”

The pair met after Mr. Balawi graduated from high school in Jordan with very high marks — 96.5 percent, according to medical officials in Amman — and was granted a scholarship to study medicine in Istanbul. In 2002 they moved to Jordan, where he registered to work as a doctor, and served an internship at two Jordanian hospitals before going to work for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which cares for Palestinian refugees.

Mr. Balawi’s wife said that soon after her husband was released from custody in Jordan a year ago he traveled to Pakistan, saying that he wanted to study further in the field of general surgery.

She said that he wanted her and the couple’s young daughters to leave Jordan and return to Istanbul in his absence, which they did on Oct. 26. She said that she last heard his voice about a month ago, when he called her from a Pakistani number and told her that he had decided to quit his practice in Pakistan and move to Turkey. Her last communication from him was late last month in an e-mail message just before he died, she told journalists.

She refused to accept that Mr. Balawi could have been manipulated by any organization, saying: “He had a strong personal will. If he has done this, he must have done it of his own will, not because somebody else told him to do so.”

Ranya al-Kadri and Reem Makhoul contributed reporting from Amman, and Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul.

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