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'Kind' Jordanian Doctor Turned Suicide Bomber

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'Kind' Jordanian Doctor Turned Suicide Bomber

Afghanistan

'Kind' Jordanian Doctor Turned Suicide Bomber

'Kind' Jordanian Doctor Turned Suicide Bomber

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/122436093/122436078" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Over the weekend, a video showing the Jordanian bomber who killed seven CIA employees in Afghanistan was broadcast on Arab and Pakistani television. He appeared dressed in camouflage and vowed to avenge the death of a Taliban leader killed by an unmanned drone. He lived in Amman, and a friend says he was kind and would be the last person you'd think would do something like this.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Were going next to the home country of a man who blew up CIA agents in Afghanistan. Humam al-Balawi was a middle-class doctor from Jordan. Over the weekend, his image turned up on video, dressed in camouflage and speaking of revenge.

NPRs Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from Jordans capital, Amman.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: The al-Balawi family home in Amman occupies the first floor of a modest apartment block in a middle-class area of the city. This weekend, after footage of his son was broadcast around the world, the bomber's father, Khalil al-Balawi, spoke in halting English of his pain.

Mr. KHALIL AL-BALAWI: I am very, very sad when I saw Humam. I am very, very sad.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: At a nearby store, a friend of Humam al-Balawi, Abu Unis(ph), says the 32-year-old doctor was a familiar figure in the neighborhood. He treated patients at a Palestinian refugee camp and was known for his good works.

Mr. ABU UNIS: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says, he was kind. He used to help people as a doctor. He would dress regularly in jeans and baseball caps. He was devout, but he was the last person you would think would do something like this.

But the future double-agent was already leading a double-life, say Jordanian experts on Islamic militancy. To his family and friends he was Humam, but on the Internet he was known as Abu Dujana al-Khurasani, a militant Islamist who was a influential voice calling for jihad.

Analyst Hasan Abul Khania(ph) had been following the writings of Abu-Dujana for some time without knowing his real identity.

Mr. HASAN ABUL KHANIA (Analyst): (Through Translator) He focused on jihad, on establishing an Islamic caliphate. And what was more distinctive, he focused on Gaza and Israel and America's support of Israel.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Balawi is of Palestinian heritage, and according to family members, he wanted to volunteer as a doctor in Gaza. Analyst Hasan Abul-Khania says Balawi is part of the new generation of al-Qaida operatives.

Mr. KHANIA: (Through Translator) The Internet has changed everything. The ones who go on the Internet already have skills. Balawi was a doctor. The Nigerian boy who attempted to blow up a plane was from an educated, wealthy family. The Fort Hood shooter was also educated. And they are being recruited through the Internet. The most important thing is that they are anonymous. They don't have ties to known militants, so it's harder for the intelligence services to find out who they are.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says secrecy is paramount. Al-Balawi, for example, did not personally meet here in Jordan with other Salafi jihadists, fundamentalists Muslims who call for the establishment of an Islamic mother state.

Mr. KHANIA: (Through Translator) The tactics are being adapted. They are trying to be unpredictable. Now, someone planning an attack could be anyone, your neighbor, even your brother.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Humam al-Balawi was picked up by the Jordanian intelligence services and questioned for several days. He was then let go for lack of evidence, a senior government official told NPR. Balawi then left to Pakistan. The official denies that Balawi was sent by the Jordanians to Pakistan with orders to infiltrate al-Qaida. They say he left of his own accord and then contacted someone in the intelligence services here by email with, quote, "information that justified being pursued."

The official says the intelligence services here, who have strong ties to the CIA, tried to, quote, "lure him into establishing a relationship with the Americans." The official strongly emphasizes that Jordan did not run the operation. The Jordanian captain that was killed in the attack, the official said, was simply a liaison officer, despite his status as a member of the royal family. Analyst Marwan Shehadeh says Balawi's attack has proven deeply embarrassing for Jordan.

Mr. MARWAN SHEHADEH (Analyst): This is, I mean, a hard blow for the Jordanians, and I think they will reorganize their strategy in dealing with al-Qaida.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says now that the level of Jordanian cooperation with the American spy agency has been shown, it could make Jordan a more pressing target for militant groups.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Amman.

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