ZARQA, Jordan — The suspected Jordanian double agent who killed seven CIA officers in Afghanistan was thrown into jail by Jordanian intelligence to coerce him to track down al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Mideast counterterrorism officials said Tuesday.
The 32-year-old doctor's allegiance was to al-Qaida from the start, however, and not to his Jordanian recruiters or their CIA friends — and it never wavered, a Middle East counterterrorism official told the Associated Press.
He and two other counterterrorism officials gave identical accounts of how and when Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi was recruited.
Jordanian intelligence believed the devout young Muslim had been persuaded to support U.S. efforts against al-Qaida in Afghanistan and wanted al-Balawi to help capture or kill Ayman al-Zawahri, a fellow doctor from Egypt who was Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, according to another counterterrorism official based in the Middle East.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
All four spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on matters involving the CIA and Jordan's national security.
Family and friends said al-Balawi, a father of two young daughters, had practiced medicine in a clinic at a Palestinian refugee camp near Zarqa, the hometown of slain al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. One high school classmate, Mohammed Yousef, described al-Balawi as "brilliant," well-spoken and well-mannered, though he kept mostly to himself and did not mingle much with relatives or friends.
The doctor also spoke openly about wanting to die in a holy war, Yousef said, adding that in Internet postings he called tirelessly for jihad against Israel and the United States.
Jordanian intelligence was aware of these provocative statements when they arrested al-Balawi last March.
Al-Balawi was jailed for three days and shortly after that, he secretly left his native Jordan for Afghanistan, they said, suggesting he had agreed to take on the mission against al-Qaida.
On Dec. 30, the Jordanian was invited to Camp Chapman, a tightly secured CIA forward base in Khost province on the fractious Afghan-Pakistan frontier, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a foreign government official.
Shortly after the debriefing began, al-Balawi set off his explosives, a former U.S. intelligence official said.