ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The suicide bomber who killed CIA agents in Afghanistan had made a video calling on militants to avenge the death of the Pakistani Taliban leader by carrying out attacks in and outside the United States, al Jazeera said.
A pilotless U.S. drone aircraft strike killed Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud last year.
Al Jazeera reported on its website that the video was left as a message to the United States and its Arab ally Jordan by the bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, in which he tells them: “We say that we will never forget the blood of our Emir Baitullah Mehsud, God’s mercy on him.”
Balawi blew himself up on Dec. 30 inside Forward Operating Base Chapman, a well-fortified U.S. compound in Khost province in southeast Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan, killing seven CIA officers.
It was the second-most deadly attack in CIA history.
Al Jazeera quotes the former Jordanian doctor as saying it was the obligation of all of Mehsud’s fighters “to retaliate for his death in the United States and outside the United States.”
Pakistan television station AAJ showed what it said was a video of Balawi sitting with Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, and reported he shared U.S. and Jordanian state secrets with militants.
Hakimullah, Mehsud’s successor, is leading a Taliban insurgency against Pakistan’s pro-American government.
If the video is verified, it will point to big intelligence failures by the United States and Jordan, one of its most important Middle East allies.
It was not clear when or where the video was taken but the presence of Hakimullah Mehsud would suggest it was taken in Pakistan. The video is likely to focus more attention on Pakistan’s efforts to wipe out militant groups along its northwest border with Afghanistan.
Pakistan, a front-line state in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, is likely to feel vindicated by the video which would appear to show the Pakistani Taliban were behind the attack on the CIA. They and several groups claimed responsibility for it.
Facing constant U.S. pressure, Pakistan has long argued that it should focus on fighting the Pakistani Taliban and cannot afford to open up new fronts against Afghan Taliban factions, whose members cross the border to attack Western forces in Afghanistan.
U.S. investigators have yet to determine which group masterminded the bombing, and competing claims of responsibility have been made by Taliban and al Qaeda leaders.
“No determination has been made,” said a senior U.S. official, who added that it was increasingly difficult to draw a distinction between the groups, which work closely together.
“They’re like a bad stew — once it’s made, it’s hard to separate the ingredients,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
AAJ, identifying the bomber by his online name, Abu Dujana al-Khorasani, quoted him as saying he “shared all secrets of Jordanian and American intelligence with his companions.”
“Jordanian and American intelligence had offered him millions of dollars in exchange for spying on the mujahideen (holy warriors). But he rejected wealth and joined the mujahideen,” AAJ said of Balawi.
By showing links between the Pakistani Taliban and a Jordanian double agent, the video is likely to raise more questions about global U.S. security measures.
“This statement (from Balawi) further enhances current concerns involving regional and affiliate arms of al-Qaeda extending their operations outside of their localized areas of operation and reaching into the continental US,” said Ben Venzke, head of IntelCenter, which monitors jihadist propaganda.
Hakimullah Mehsud lost his main bases in his South Waziristan bastion in a Pakistani offensive launched in mid-October.
His whereabouts are not known but he is believed to have fled from South Waziristan to seek shelter with allies, possibly in North Waziristan.
CIA Director Leon Panetta defended the agency against accusations of a security blunder in Afghanistan in a column posted on the Washington Post website on Saturday.
Panetta said the bomber detonated his explosives just before security guards were about to search him, and it “was not a question of trusting a potential intelligence asset.”
The Washington Post, citing U.S. officials briefed on the incident, said Balawi was treated as a “superstar asset” because he had impressed his CIA handlers with “photograph-type evidence” that he had been in the presence of al Qaeda’s top leaders.
The CIA deaths in Afghanistan came on on the heels of an attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner. U.S. President Barack Obama took responsibility on Thursday for security failures leading up to that incident and ordered reforms.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the airplane bombing attempt, one of the most serious U.S. security breaches and intelligence breakdowns since the Sept. 11 attacks.
(Writing by Michael Georgy; additional reporting by Adam Entous in Washington; editing by Robert Birsel and Anthony Boadle)
For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: here