INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR—PAPER NO.605
The reputation of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has shot up in the Pashtun belt following reports that it played an important role in the assassination of seven officers of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and an officer of the Jordanian Intelligence related to the royal family of Jordan in a suicide attack launched on December 30,2009, by Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a 36-year-old Al Qaeda sympathiser from Zarqa, Jordan. He was reportedly arrested by the Jordanian intelligence over a year ago and persuaded to work for the Jordanian intelligence and collect intelligence about Al Qaeda in the Af-Pak region. He was sent to Afghanistan and told to work under the control of a person who has been named by the Jordanian media as Ali bin Zeid. He has since been identified as a well-placed officer of the Jordanian intelligence related to the royal family. The Jordanian media has reported his death in action in Afghanistan without saying that he was killed along with the CIA officers.
2. It is understood that al-Balawi, who was infiltrated into the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan earlier last year, was in direct touch with Ali bin Zeid, who used to visit Khost periodically to debrief him. About 20 days prior to the suicide bombing, he had informed Ali bin Zeid that he had some information regarding the location of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's No.2, and sought a meeting to convey the information. Bin Zeid flew to Khost and made arrangements for receiving him at the CIA base. He was brought to the base after he had crossed the border into Afghanistan. It is not clear as to how he managed to enter the base without going through the metal detector which everbody working in the base is required to cross. Apparently, he did not have to and blew himself up as soon as he was with the CIA officers.
3. This would appear to be a joint operation by the followers of the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former head of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Pakistani Taliban followers of the late Baitullah Mehsud to jointly avenge the death of Zarqawi in Iraq and Baitullah in South Waziristan. They blamed the CIA for the death of their leaders. al Balawi, it is said, was a great admirer of Zarqawi, who was from the same village as Balawi. He initially approached the Jordanian intelligence with an offer to help in the collection of intelligence about Zawahiri, who was not on good terms with Zarqawi. After having won the confidence of the Jordanian intelligence and the CIA,he approached the Pakistani Taliban after the death of Baitullah Mehsud in a US Drone strike in August last with an offer to carry out a suicide attack against the CIA. His offer was accepted by the TTP and he was trained and given a suicide vest.
4.Latest reports indicate that Balawi may be identical with diehard Al Qaeda member by name Abu Dujanah al-Khurasani, who was very active in jihadi web sites associated with Al Qaeda.Both the Jordanian Intelligence and the CIA seem to have totally failed in checking the antecedents of Balawi before accepting his offer to collect intelligence about Zawahiri.
5. While it is clear that the Pakistani Taliban had not kept the Afghan Taliban informed about this operation, it is not yet clear whether the followers of Zarqawi in Iraq had kept Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri informed. This appears to have been an operation mounted by Al Qaeda of Iraq with the collaboration of the Pakistani Taliban. ( 5-1-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.E-mail: email@example.com )