Amman, Asharq Al-Awsat-The Jordanian authorities have imposed a security cordon around the family home of Humam Khalil al-Balawi, the alleged triple agent who killed seven CIA officers in a suicide attack at a US base in Afghanistan. This residence is located in the residential al-Nuzha district, close to the Jabal al-Hussein Palestinian refugee camp in the Jordanian capital of Amman.
Asharq Al-Awsat visited the al-Nuzha district yesterday and spoke with the alleged bomber’s brother. The brother claimed that Humam al-Balawi is being detained by the security authorities, and he told Asharq Al-Awsat that he does not want to reveal any more than this to the media because the family needs to clarify its position. He said “We have not held a funeral reception for my brother.”
One of Humam al-Balawi’s relatives, who asked for his name not to be disclosed, told Asharq Al-Awsat “There is only one person in the world whose name is Humam Khalil al-Balawi, and he is my relative.” He added “we do not shy away from admitting his [al-Balawi’s] death [if this is the case].”
Humam al-Balawi’s elder brother, Sheikh Ayman, who is an Imam of a nearby mosque and holds a PhD in Islamic Law, declined to talk to Asharq Al-Awsat.
One of Humam al-Balawi’s neighbors expressed his surprise that Dr. Humam al-Balawi was involved in the attack that killed seven CIA agents, and a Jordanian liaison officer. He said “I think Humam would be the last person to undertake an operation such as this, for he did not speak about religion or politics.”
AFP quoted Dr. al-Balawi’s mother, Shanara Fadel al-Balawi, as saying that she had not heard from her son for ten months. She also stressed that “he prayed and read the Koran, but [he] was never an extremist. He never shared extremist views.”
Humam al-Balawi was born in Kuwait on 25 December 1977 to a middle-class family of a nomadic Bedouin clan, which has branches in Jordan and the West Bank. Al-Balawi has six brothers, and three sisters, including one identical twin brother. His family moved from Kuwait to Jordan in 1991, against the backdrop of the Second Gulf War.
Shanara al-Balawi, age 64, also said that she was not certain that her son was truly responsible for this attack, and that the al-Balawi family had received no official news in this regard.
She said “He told us he was going to Turkey to get his original diploma, in late February. But we [later] realized he never went then to Turkey”
His mother also revealed that Humam al-Balawi was married to a Turkish national who he met whilst studying at a medical school in Turkey, and that they have two daughters, Laila and Lina.
One of Humam al-Balawi’s relatives said that Humam had deceived them all, with regards to his intentions and beliefs, as he told his family that he was returning to Turkey to see his wife and children, and to complete his studies.
Dr. al-Balawi is accused of carrying out the most lethal attack against the American intelligence community since the Beirut embassy bombings in 1983, killing seven CIA operatives at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Afghanistan.
According to US sources, the US had recruited Humam al-Balawi to work for them after he was arrested by Jordanian intelligence. He is reported to have been a CIA asset, and according to many US media sources, al-Balawi never abandoned his loyalty to the Al Qaeda organization, and was receiving orders from them.
If it is confirmed that al-Balawi was in fact a triple agent, this raises questions about the CIA’s ability to infiltrate Al Qaeda, and turn former member into assets. The Washington Post quoted two former US government officials as saying that al-Balawi lured the CIA agents to meet him, claiming to possess new information about the Al Qaeda leadership. The two sources also claimed that al-Balawi was allowed to enter the US base without being searched due to his credibility with US and Jordanian intelligence.
Jordanian authorities have denied that al-Balawi was a double or triple agent, saying that he was an occasional asset of Jordanian intelligence with no formal role as an intelligence officer.
A former US counter-terrorist agent also told the Washington Post that al-Balawi “was someone who had already worked with us” and that he was jointly managed by the US and Jordanian intelligence agencies, and had provided them with “actionable intelligence.”
Prior to this, the top US and NATO intelligence officer in Afghanistan, US Major General Michael Flynn criticized the US intelligence operations in Afghanistan. In a 26-page report published on Monday, Flynn said that US intelligence officers and analysts are “ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced, incurious about the correlations between various development projects and the level of cooperation among villagers, and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers.”
Michael Flynn’s report was published by the Center for a New American Security think-tank, and described US intelligence as being “clueless” and lacking in concrete information.
Another of al-Balawi’s brothers who works as an engineer in Dubai and who preferred not to disclose his name, told the AFP news agency that his brother Humam was “very angry” at the Israeli military operations conducted against the Gaza Strip. He said “The Israeli military operation in Gaza affected Humam and he wanted to join doctors of the Jordan Medical Association as a volunteer and go to Gaza.”
Al-Balawi also revealed that his family only learnt of Humam’s death after receiving a telephone call from Afghanistan. He said that his father received a phone call last Thursday at 7 am from an individual who spoke weak Arabic, and who informed him that Humam had committed a suicide bombing at the US intelligence base in Afghanistan.
However Humam al-Balawi’s mother told AFP ” We hear the news about my son Humam Khalil Mohammed al-Balawi but I don’t know if he is dead or not.”