WASHINGTON – A top Al Qaeda leader Wednesday praised the Dec. 30 attack on a CIA outpost in Afghanistan and said it was to avenge the deaths of a Pakistani Taliban leader and two Al Qaeda figures.
The claim was made in a message on jihadist Internet forums. It added further confusion to which group orchestrated the homicide bombing that killed seven CIA employees and a Jordanian intelligence officer and wounded six.
A Pakistani Taliban spokesman previously had identified the bomber and claimed responsibility. Terrorist watchdog groups disagreed Wednesday over the intent of the new message — whether it was a claim of responsibility by Al Qaeda or just praise for the bomber.
The bomber, a Jordanian doctor identified as Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, apparently was a double agent who had been invited inside the CIA outpost bearing a promise of information about Al Qaeda's second in command, presumed to be hiding in Pakistan.
The new Internet message is signed by Al Qaeda's No. 3, Sheikh Mustafa Abu al-Yazid. He said the attack avenged the death of Baitullah Mehsud, Abu Saleh al-Somali and Abdullah Saeed al-Liby.
A U.S. counterterrorism official has said al-Somali was a senior Al Qaeda operations planner who was killed in an American missile strike last month in western Pakistan. Mehsud was a Pakistani Taliban leader killed Aug. 5 in a CIA missile strike in northwest Pakistan.
Al-Somali was responsible for the terror group's operations outside the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, reaching into activities in Africa, according to U.S. intelligence, and was suspected of being involved in plotting attacks against the United States and Europe, the official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss covert operations, said al-Somali was part of Al Qaeda's senior leadership circle and had connections to other Pakistan-based extremists. His role was to take guidance from senior leaders and develop plans for prospective terrorist attacks, the official said.
The identity of the third man mentioned in the message could not be immediately determined.