Al-Qaida Says CIA Killings Payback for Pakistan Drone Strikes

BY Larisa Epatko  January 7, 2010 at 3:47 PM EST

Al-Qaida claimed responsibility on Thursday for last month’s attack on a base in Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven CIA agents. According to Islamist Web sites, the attack was “revenge” for U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.

Al-Qaida’s head in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, said the bomber — identified as a Jordanian doctor who had been recruited for counter-terrorism work — wrote in his will that the suicide attack was revenge for “our righteous martyrs” and named several top militants killed in drone attacks in August, reported the Agence France-Presse.

The military and CIA base in Khost, which is close to the Pakistan border, has been described as a key “anti-terror” facility that oversaw drone strikes targeting suspected al-Qaida and Taliban sites on the Pakistani border. Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, 32, an alleged double agent, detonated a vest of explosives at Forward Operating Base Chapman during a meeting with the CIA and his Jordanian handler. Family members of al-Balawi are speaking out about his role.

Al-Balawi’s wife, Defne Bayrak, who lives in Istanbul, told Turkish media outlets that she doubted her husband worked for the CIA, despite reports that he was a double agent, but that she was proud of what he had done, according to Reuters. His brother and father told CNN that his actions were “out of character” and he was “under pressure.” His father said he learned of his son’s death by an Afghan man, who called him saying al-Balawi was a hero.

Families of some of the CIA victims have released information about their lives. Harold Brown Jr., 37, from Massachusetts, had a wife and three children; Jeremy Wise, 35, was a former Navy SEAL and worked as a security contractor; Scott Michael Roberson, 39, worked as a security officer and had a wife who was eight months pregnant; and Dane Clak Paresi, 46, was a contractor and retired soldier. An eighth victim, identified as a Jordanian spy, was Capt. Sharif Ali bin Zeid, a member of the royal family.

On Thursday, another suicide bomber struck a marketplace in Gardez, the capital of Paktia Province in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least nine people. And a bomb planted outside the window of the offices of Gov. Tahir Khan Sabari in Khost Province showered him with glass but didn’t kill him, though it wounded six other Afghan officials.