Several days after international media reports, vis a vis CIA officials, indicating Humam Balawi, a Jordanian, as being the bomber who killed seven CIA agents and his Jordanian handler, Sharif Ali, a video of him has surfaced on Al Jazeera. The video is very short, but in it, Balawi, in traditional suicide bomber fashion, sends a “message to the enemies of the ‘ummah’ – the Jordanian mukhabarat and the American CIA” emphasizing that a mujahed does not sell-out his religion for any price. According the video, Balawi seems to be taking revenge for the death of Baitullah Mehsud, adding that, “To retaliate for his death in the United States and outside the United States will remain an obligation on all emigrants who were harboured by Baitullah Mehsud.”
Local Jordanian media are still not touching this story for all the obvious reasons. There are the few stories that seem to slip through, but they focus primarily on what Jordanian officials feed to the media, thus articles such as this one focus on the “terrorists are our enemies and we will hunt them down” vernacular, with constant references to the Amman bombings of 2005 in the justification context. That said, electronic media has been just a tad bolder, with Ammon even posting Balawi’s video, but I would wager that it won’t take long before “requests” are made for them to take it down. Ammon also published a piece quoting Balawi’s Turkish wife, who said she was surprised to learn of her husband’s operation but is proud of him and considers him a martyr. It was also revealed that his brother, Asad, was brought in by the mukhabarat soon after the operation for questioning, but one can safely assume judging by the 11 phone calls the mukhabarat made to their home in the span of 30 minutes after a CNN journalist showed up on their doorstep yesterday (seen below), that the intelligence service was sending a “do not talk” message to the family. According to most reports, they were also told not to have a wake.
It is however interesting to compare the comments left on Ammon’s article (mostly local) and those left on Al Jazeera’s piece of the same subject matter. Ammon’s are fairly anti-Balawi and anti-Al Queda, while comments left on Al Jazeera are all pretty much pro. I wonder to what extent comments are being filtered, monitored, flagged or even planted.
That said, foreign minister Nasser Judeh is on his own metaphorical suicide mission to the US, attempting to articulate an official Jordanian state voice in the midst of this mess. In a press briefing (video/transcript) Judeh informed the US that Jordan’s role in Afghanistan is indeed related to counter-terrorism as well as humanitarian efforts, and that Jordan was one of the first countries in Afghanistan and will enhance its role in the coming stage. As a Jordanian I naturally forced to wonder whether this same admission will be made to the Jordanian public via local media. Al Rai newspaper, which is largely percieved to be in the pocket of the Jordanian government, did in fact mention the the press briefing, but focused almost entirely on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, burying any mention of Jordan’s involvement in Afghanistan as a one-liner deep in the folds.
While I doubt that will change, there is something to be said about the speed at which international media, specifically US media, received information from various CIA sources regarding this story. It may be some indication as to the extent of which this situation has caused some anger in Washington’s intelligence circles who are typically more hush-hush about being overwhelmingly forthcoming with intelligence operations, and even more so when it comes to the more embarrassing situations in their field.