Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Saturday, 9 January 2010

'CIA bomber' video indicates Taliban's reach


The clip purportedly shows al-Balawi with Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud

By M Ilyas Khan
BBC News, Islamabad

The Jordanian "double agent" who killed himself and seven American Central Intelligence Agency officials in Afghanistan's Khost province last month must have been very sure of the success of his mission.

"This… attack will be the first of revenge operations against the Americans and their drone teams outside the Pakistani border, after they killed the Amir [chief] of Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Baitullah Mehsud, may God's beneficence be upon him," he apparently said in a video broadcast released on Saturday.

The video shows the purported Jordanian suicide bomber sitting next to Baitullah Mehsud's successor and the new Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, and reading from written text.

"We [the Jordanian himself and the Taliban, whom he describes as Mujahideen or the holy warriors] arranged together this attack to let the Americans understand that our belief in Allah… cannot be exchanged for all the wealth in the world," he says.

It would appear that he had already set the trap for the CIA agents at the time he made the video.

Photo of Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi from 2007
The father of Humam al-Balawi says his son is the man in the video

But is this really the man who carried out the 30 December bombing of Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, which is believed to be the nerve-centre of suspected US drone strikes into Pakistani territory?

The authenticity of the video is not yet established, neither is the identity of the man in the video - although the father of the accused Jordanian has said that the man who appears on the video is definitely his son.

The Americans say the Jordanian who killed the CIA officials in Khost was named Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi.

But the man in the video introduces himself as Dr Abu Dujana al-Khorasani.

He also does not specify as to where "outside the Pakistani borders" he is going to carry out his revenge attack.

Some observers even suspect the video may have been doctored by the Pakistani Taliban - who are believed to have released it - to show their leader at the side of the bomber who greatly embarrassed both the American and Jordanian intelligence services.

Training camps

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the Khost attack, alongside similar claims by the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Baitullah Mehsud
Baitullah Mehsud's tribal stronghold was in South Waziristan

All of them said that the attack was planned to avenge the 6 August 2009 killing of Baitullah Mehsud in a drone strike.

A Pakistani Taliban leader, Qari Hussain, who is known to run training camps for suicide bombers in Pakistan's Waziristan tribal region, near the border with Afghanistan, had in an audio message last week promised that they would soon release a video of the Khost bomber.

If the video is found to be authentic, then it apparently shows the level and the extent of collaboration between the al-Qaeda core, the Afghan Taliban and their Pakistani counterparts.

This is not to say that there has ever been any real divergence of views over ideology, tactics or strategy among these three entities.

Analysts say that the Taliban movement in Pakistan is essentially an offshoot of the so-called Haqqani network, which is an Afghanistan-focused organisation with close links to the al-Qaeda core and sanctuaries in Pakistan.

The network has deep reach inside Afghanistan and is believed to be behind several high-profile attacks in eastern and south-central Afghanistan, including Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

'Holy warriors'

An Afghan war veteran from the days of Soviet invasion, Jalaluddin Haqqani, is said to have carved out the Taliban sanctuaries in Waziristan through his close links with the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI.

If found authentic, the video would show that any distinction between the militants of Afghanistan and Pakistan has no value beyond academic interest

Haqqani is now believed to be an ailing man, and the leadership of the network has passed into the hands of his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani.

The Haqqanis hail from Khost region, and have been based in the nearby Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan since the Soviet invasion in 1979.

In the post-9/11 period, the Haqqanis have organised Afghan resistance from three distinct bases in Pakistan's North and South Waziristan region.

The fighters in North Waziristan are led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, those in the western region of South Waziristan are led by Maulvi Nazir, while those in eastern parts of South Waziristan are led by Hakimullah Mehsud.

Over the years, the groups in North Waziristan and in the west of South Waziristan have struck peace deals with the Pakistani forces and have focused on Afghanistan.

The group led by Hakimullah Mehsud has, meanwhile, trained its guns on Pakistan.

The strategy is in keeping with al-Qaeda's view that both Pakistani and Afghan governments are siding with the "infidels" and deserve the wrath of the holy warriors.

If found authentic, the video released on Saturday would show that any distinction between the militants of Afghanistan and Pakistan has no value beyond academic interest.

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