CIA bomber calls for attacks on U.S. in video
Sunday, January 10, 2010
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- When a missile from an unmanned U.S. aircraft in August killed Baitullah Mehsud, leader of a violent crusade for radical Islam in Pakistan's tribal northwest, U.S. and Pakistani officials thought they had scored a major blow against the forces of jihad.
But Mehsud's death served as the apparent source of inspiration for the Jordanian suicide bomber and al-Qaeda double agent whose Dec. 30 attack at an American base in eastern Afghanistan killed seven CIA officers and contractors.
In a chilling videotape released posthumously Saturday by the Pakistani Taliban and broadcast on regional TV channels, bomber Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, 32, called on Muslim holy warriors worldwide to avenge Mehsud's death by attacking U.S. targets.
"We will never forget the blood of our emir Baitullah Mehsud," Balawi said on the tape, using the title that means leader of the Muslim faithful. "We will always demand revenge for him inside America and outside."
The videotape confirmed the Pakistani Taliban's central role in the bombing and exposed its close links with al-Qaeda and with the Afghan Taliban. It suggested an unexpected degree of coordination, capability and shared ambition among the three movements that some experts here said may force the United States to reassess its regional and even global counterterrorism strategy.
The tape also indicated that Mehsud's successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, a man in his 20s who was shown on the tape with Balawi in an undisclosed location, has matured into a full-fledged terrorist operative in his own right.
"It was surprising, yes. The Taliban do not have the reach to recruit people outside Pakistan, and our intelligence people thought al-Qaeda would not have enough confidence in Hakimullah yet," said retired Brig. Mehmood Shah, a former security chief for northwestern Pakistan based in Peshawar. "This attack shows that he has definitely been working directly with them."
The CIA has declined to comment publicly on the bomber's identity or his connections and did not issue a formal assessment of the videotape.
"These terrorist groups are scorpions in a bottle," said one U.S. intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "They're like a stew -- once it's made, it's hard to separate the ingredients."
'To kill Americans'
It was not clear how or why the Jordanian Balawi, an Arabic-speaking doctor whose family lives in Turkey, came to identify so strongly with Baitullah Mehsud, a reclusive tribal leader from a remote area of Pakistan.
A Taliban official reached by telephone Saturday in the conflicted tribal area of North Waziristan said Balawi had first come to the region eight months ago and approached "our Arab friends," meaning al-Qaeda operatives based in the Taliban sanctuary, who the official said were initially suspicious.
Later, the official said, Balawi met with local Taliban leaders and was taken to their trainer, Qari Hussain, to learn how to detonate a suicide bomb. He said the Jordanian was "desperate to kill Americans to take revenge for his Arab freedom fighters," as well as for Mehsud. "He was a great asset for us."