Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing in Afghanistan last month that killed seven CIA employees and contractors and a Jordanian military officer, according to a statement posted on Islamist Web sites.
Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda's commander of operations in Afghanistan and its No. 3 man, said the attack avenged the death of Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Taliban in Pakistan who was killed in a missile strike last August, and al Qaeda operatives Saleh al-Somali and Abdullah al-Libi.
A former U.S. intelligence official identified the suicide bomber as Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor who acted as a double agent. He was recruited as a counterterrorism intelligence source, according to a senior Jordanian official.
Senior Jordanian intelligence sources tell Time magazine that al-Balawi was not a double agent.
“Instead, they say, after he was initially turned following his arrest by the Jordanians in 2007, al-Balawi had been a useful asset whose work helped the Americans target al-Qaeda leaders,” report Time’s Jamil Hammad and Tim McGirk.
“But, they claim, his outrage at the high number of civilian casualties inflicted in the resulting strikes may be the factor that prompted him to go back to the other side.”
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari may have “survived a campaign to oust him,” reports McClatchy’s Saeed Shah.
“Although there were predictions in the last few months of 2009 that he was finished, Zardari has defended himself aggressively in recent days and won some political allies,” Shah writes.
“The news media and the judiciary had appeared to be closing in on him, but in a world of political shadow boxing, many analysts and politicians think that Pakistan's powerful military has been behind the drive to force the president out of office.”
In other news reports and perspectives:
- Stephen Farrell (New York Times): “Jordanian bomber’s path remains a mystery to his family”
- Pamela Constable (Washington Post): “In Pakistani port city of Karachi, a new resolve to turn against Taliban”
- Tom Coghlan (Times of London): “U.S. forces in Afghanistan ‘should expect up to 500 casualties a month’”
- Michael Georgy and Zeeshan Haider (Reuters India): “Analysis: U.S. hunt for Haqqani nightmare for Pakistan”
- Rory Stewart (New York Review of Books): “Afghanistan: What could work”