WASHINGTON – The suicide bomber who killed eight people inside a CIA base in Afghanistan was a Jordan-born terrorist double agent who was invited to the base because he claimed to have information targeting Osama bin Laden’s second-in-command, a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a foreign government official confirmed Monday.
The bombing killed seven CIA employees – four officers and three contracted security guards – and a Jordanian intelligence officer, Ali bin Zaid, according to a second former U.S. intelligence official. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the incident.
The former senior intelligence official and the foreign official said the bomber was Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a 36-year old doctor from Zarqa, Jordan, who had been recruited by Jordanian intelligence. Zarqa is the hometown of slain al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. NBC News first reported the bomber’s identity.
He was arrested more than a year ago by Jordanian intelligence and was thought to have been persuaded to support U.S. and Jordanian efforts against al-Qaida, according to the NBC report. He was invited to Camp Chapman, a tightly secured CIA forward base in Khost province on the fractious Afghan-Pakistan frontier, because he was offering urgent information to track down Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man.
The CIA declined to comment on the report.
Hajj Yacoub, a self-proclaimed spokesman for the Taliban in Pakistan, identified the bomber on Muslim militant Web sites as Hammam Khalil Mohammed, also known as Abu-Dujana al-Khurasani. There was no independent confirmation of Yacoub’s statement.
Al-Balawi was not searched for bombs when he got onto Camp Chapman, according to both former officials and a current intelligence official.
He detonated the explosive shortly after his debriefing began, according to one of the former intelligence officials. In addition to the eight dead, there were at least six wounded, according to the CIA.
The bodies of seven CIA employees arrived Monday at Dover Air Force Base in a small private ceremony attended by CIA Director Leon Panetta, other agency and national security officials, and friends and family, said CIA spokesman George Little.
“These patriots courageously served their nation. The agency extends its gratitude to the United States military for their unwavering support since the attack, including their assistance at Dover,” Little said in a statement issued Monday.
The former senior intelligence official said one of the big unanswered questions is why so many people were present for the debriefing – the interview of the source – when the explosive was detonated.