Image: Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi
Al Jazeera
Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi's wife says she doubts he was working for the CIA.
updated 1/6/2010 4:02:47 PM ET 2010-01-06T21:02:47

The wife of the suspected Jordanian double agent who killed seven CIA workers in Afghanistan said Wednesday her husband regarded the United States as an adversary.

Defne Bayrak, the Turkish wife of Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, told Turkish media by telephone she was shocked at the news that her husband blew himself up at a base in Afghanistan on Dec. 30, killing himself and the officers.

Bayrak, who lives in Istanbul, said her husband had plans to become a specialist in surgery in Turkey and doubts he was working for the CIA.

"I don't believe that he was an agent for CIA or for Jordan," she told private NTV television. "He was someone who even did not like to leave home."

Bayrak, an Arabic language translator for some Turkish media outlets, later told private CNN-Turk television that while in Jordan her husband wrote articles for Jihad Web sites.

Al-Balawi spoke openly about wanting to die in a holy war, calling tirelessly for jihad against Israel and the United States, said Mohammed Yousef, one of his high school classmates in Jordan.

Jordanian intelligence was aware of these statements when they arrested al-Balawi last March, according to counterterrorism officials based in the Middle East.

Jordanian intelligence believed the devout 32-year-old doctor had been persuaded to support U.S. efforts against al-Qaida in Afghanistan and wanted al-Balawi to help capture or kill Ayman al-Zawahri, a fellow doctor from Egypt who is Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, according to another counterterrorism official based in the Middle East.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on matters involving the CIA and Jordan's national security.

Bayrak confirmed that al-Balawi was jailed for three days last March and left Jordan shortly after that, saying he was going to Pakistan to become a specialist in surgery.

After those plans did not work out, al-Balawi said he got another job there, Bayrak said.

But anti-terrorism experts say he traveled to Afghanistan, suggesting he had agreed to take on the mission against al-Qaida, providing valuable intelligence information about al-Qaida leaders to U.S. and Jordanian agents.

Bayrak and her two daughters left Jordan in October and now live in Istanbul.

She last spoke to al-Balawi over a month ago, Bayrak said.

"It was a normal conversation, he talked about his plans to come to Turkey and become a specialist here," she told NTV television.

Later she told CNN-Turk television: "I was shocked when I heard the news because he constantly spoke about coming to Turkey ... I was not expecting it."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Source: Tape exists of CIA bomb attack

  1. Closed captioning of: Source: Tape exists of CIA bomb attack

    >>> with agency personnel before the attack. "the washington post " is reporting that former officials are, quote, agast that the informant would be allowed to surround himself with top cia operatives without more thorough screenings. and joe , your contacts inside the intelligence community have offered you some more fascinating insight into what happened here.

    >> absolutely. the way that this has been portrayed in the news media has been that they were sitting around a table and he detonated the device. actually, my sources in the agency tell me that -- and people that have looked through all of the reports tell me that, actually, he got on the s base, this informant, this double agent got on the base, and the minute he got on the base and out of the car, they knew something was wrong. he had his hand in his pocket. three security guards started approaching him and saying, get your hand out of your pocket, take it out of your pocket, take it out of your pocket, and here's some breaking news. i haven't seen this reported anywhere else, a tape exists of this explosion. it is a gruesome scene. you can see the three agents going after him, telling him -- and he detonates it. there is an explosion. there were actually some people behind a car that were shielded by the blast from the car that survived. one of those people, the number two cia official in afghanistan . unfortunately, the base commander , a woman, was killed. and she was the one that i've been telling you about. she's been following osama bin laden in al qaeda since 1997 , she was killed, but the number two cia agent in afghanistan was not killed. again, this all exists on a tape. and again, it's something they knew immediately was going wrong. now, what happened was that they were not -- first of all, the question was asked yesterday by david ignatius , why didn't they do this off-site? and my intelligence sources tell me, in this part of the region, they just don't do that, because if you send americans out in that part of the region, you're either going to have them killed or kidnapped. and then you're going to have an issue on your hand. there are a lot of questions as to why they didn't have afghan forces frisk this person before they brought him on base, but, again, it's not as if he went in, sat around a table. this was, immediately, he got out, they were going to frisk him, people came out, there were 12, 13 officials that came out to greet him, but it's not like they were all around him. they sent the three guards there first to frisk him. then there was the explosion. it is though this has just absolutely tun stunned the intelligence community , but there's a lot of anger and the agency tells me recommitment. my sources tell me.

    >> andrea mitchell , your reaction, especially given the fact that they're really looking now at the procedure here that went awry.

    >> well, joe 's reporting is stunning and exclusive, and reconfirms what had been supposed by other former officials and current officials in talking about this. that, in fact, we were aware that the bomb had gone off immediately, but not the kind of detail that joe has. and the very fact that he was not frisked, not checked as he came in, what people are saying that he did not want to expose himself to the perimeter security agents , who are afghan. so he wanted to protect -- that's what he communicated to them, he wanted to come in and they were trying to treat him as an important source, an important asset, so they were deferring to his wishes, in letting him come inside. and joe is absolutely right. there's no way that they were going to have a meeting like this, really a summit, of all of the brain trust of our afghan cia officials, there was no way that they were going to have that kind of a meeting outside the perimeter. but what joe is reporting -- yeah, go ahead, joe .

    >> and andrea , also, don't you think, because this is what my sources are telling me, that the jordanians have been such great allies --

    >> exactly.

    >> -- that this person was allowed into the gate because the jordanians have always told us, we know this part of the region better than you guys do, follow our lead. two quick questions, one, don't you think this tragedy happened because we deferred to the jordanians , because they've been such steadfast allies. but, secondly, isn't this such a huge embarrassment for the king of jordan , because this shows that they are a lot closer to the united states and the cia in these matters than they like to tell their own people.

    >> of course. and as you know, jordan has a palestinian majority. the cia and the united states , especially after abu ghraib , hugely unpopular in jordan . the bottom line here is also that this is a huge setback. i mean, this is analogous to what happened in beirut in 1993 when we lost our middle east cia intelligence brain trust in that horrible bombing. this is the loss of the very people who had been successfully fighting al qaeda . it shows that al qaeda -- something jack reed said to me on the air yesterday, who's on the armed services and the intelligence committees. the fact that al qaeda was willing to give up this double agent who they had spent a lot of time and effort implanting and embedding, and gaining the trust of u.s. and jordanian intelligence . the fact that they were willing to have him be blown up was evident that they knew they were going to get the top cia officials and some of the contractors as well who had been targeting al qaeda . so they knew that the benefit outweighed the loss to them of a very successfully implanted double agent.

    >> michael crowley , you just returned from afghanistan . a bad situation, goes from bad to worse.

    >> one thing that strikes me beyond the immediate tragedy is the secondary effect. we're trying to do essentially a counterinsurgency strategy in afghanistan , even though joe biden says we aren't. when i was there, you talk to the military people , they're all talking in terms of counterinsurgency. and essential to counterinsurgency is population with the local population, trust with tribal elders, local leaders. you've got to get to know those people. you have to have interactions to gather intelligence , to build relationships between u.s. military and civilian leaders on the ground and these people who live in the country. in this case, this guy was jordanian, but frequently you'll have to have meetings with tribal elders or people who are giving you intelligence . and the level of suspicion and distrust now, the way that has been heightened by an incident like this is going to make those relationships so much harder. they were hard to begin with because of language and cultural barriers, but now these guys are going to be treated presumed criminals, presumed bombers. and that makes it so difficult to try to make them trust the americans and give intelligence to the americans and build the relationships we need.

    >> exactly. and that's the thing we don't understand, andrea , if you're trying to get past the suspicion of somebody, the fear of somebody you know is putting their life on the line coming to talk to you and the first thing they do is strip search you, that creates serious problems. i'm seeing that we're flashing some breaking news up on the screen and i want to be clear about this and follow up with you, andrea , the base chief was killed, the number two was injured, but that's the number two cia chief in all of afghanistan . not on that base, but in all of afghanistan . which, again, underlining your point, this was a summit. they thought that they had somebody that was going to lead them to al zawahiri and possibly osama bin laden and they came out as a sign of respect. again, and deferring to the jordanian that, i guess, is a member of the royal family , if i'm not mistaken.

    >> exactly. and the jordanians have been very sensitive about this. they have been in contact with us saying, oh, he was not one of our assets. we only e-mailed him, we didn't have -- this wasn't a personal handler, but the bottom line is we know what we're talking about here. this is a hall of mirrors and you're dealing with double agents and clearly it was the jordanians who had vouched for him. the jordanians had arrested him, he had been in prison, then he went to pakistan, so they're trying to blame the pakistanis. but this was clearly a very long-planned emersion of this double agent into the good graces of the jordanians who then vouched for him to the americans . it was a summit, as you point out. these are the risks that our front-line intelligence operatives are taking to target al qaeda in the field, to go after the bad guys in waziristan. this tells you exactly how much risk they have to take. they are out there, more exposed than just about anyone, and certainly as exposed as our troops are. and doing such a terribly tough job. and you can only imagine the grief, the morale challenge for the agency coming at the same time that the agency has to shoulder some blame for what happened with the missteps on the christmas day suspect --

    >> on that, andrea , i know your sources were talking to you about the reaction of people within the cia , close to this, close to the folks --

    >> this has been the greatest fear for almost a decade now. they believed that this would happen. they wanted to avoid it happening, but they had been -- and they talked about this for some time. and as andrea said, they understand that this is a dangerous business and this doesn't shock anybody, that agents died. but it has reverberations through the intelligence community , and there is a sense of, well, they want revenge. there's just, though, a sense of recommitment to the cause. but, again, very, very devastating.

    >> yep. and chilling new details coming to the table this morning from your sources. we'll follow this. andrea , thanks for that.


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