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Jordanians emerging in active al Qaida role

world Updated: Dec 22, 2010 20:29 IST

AP
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A prominent Jordanian-Palestinian militant recently killed in Afghanistan was a medical school dropout, who joined al Qaida after his heart was broken in an failed love affair, his friends and a counterterrorism official said on Wednesday.

Haitham Mohammed al-Khayat, 26, better known in extremist circles as Abu Kandahar al-Zarqawi, was an administrator of the online jihadi forum, Al Hesbah, according to Islamist militant websites. The sites announced that he was killed by US forces Friday. He was among eight Jordanians killed or arrested in the militant hotbeds of Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen over recent weeks.

The killings and arrests highlight the active role Jordanian militants play in the al Qaida terror network, undermining efforts by their pro-American leader, King Abdullah II, to support he US war on terrorism.

The websites and the official said al-Khayat was an associate of the Jordanian-born doctor who blew himself up in a CIA outpost in eastern Afghanistan a year ago, killing seven CIA employees and a Jordanian intelligence officer.

Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, also known as Abu Dujana al-Khurasani, was a triple agent, recruited by Jordanian intelligence to provide information to the CIA on al Qaida's number 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, who turned on his handlers.

Al-Khayat knew al-Balawi from their hometown of Zarqa, the birthplace of slain al Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the counterterrorism official said.

"He named himself after the terrorist al-Zarqawi, which shows that he completely identified himself as a militant," he said. The official declined to provide details on al-Khayat's death, citing classified intelligence data. But he said the terrorist was an "al Qaida operative, who knew many in the terror group's top echelon."

"He was sought in Jordan for his militant ideology and articles he published on the Internet," he said, adding that al-Khayat was arrested a few times between 2000 and 2005, but never indicted on terrorism-related charges.

In an interview with an Islamist militant website in April, al-Khayat urged Mideast Arabs to "focus on the wars of assassinations, snipers and explosives."

Government records showed that al-Khayat was born to a Palestinian family from the Gaza Strip, with ties to the West Bank town of Hebron.

Three of his friends, insisting on anonymity for fear of police reprisal, said he studied medicine in the Ukraine, but never completed his degree.

One said he had a "bad relationship" with his father, who insisted he abandon extremism. He said al-Khayat had a love affair with Jordanian-Palestinian woman, whose father refused his marriage proposal "because of his hard-line religious views." His troubled relationships were confirmed by another friend who posted an emotional letter of condolence on the Internet.

The intelligence officer insisted that Jordanians only make up a "small portion" of those fighting against US and other Western troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen, with the bulk of them coming from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Egypt and Pakistan.

However, he did provide details about eight Jordanians either arrested or killed just in the past month for involvement in terror-related activities.

-Dec. 15, Jordanian engineer Maath Mohammed Kamal Alia, 45, was arrested in Yemen on suspicion of throwing a bomb at a US Embassy vehicle.

-Dec. 14, Jordanian-Palestinian militant Mahmoud Abu Reidah, 38, was killed by US forces in Afghanistan. An al Qaida operative better known as Abu Rasmi, he was granted political asylum in Britain in 1998.

-Dec. 7, Jordanian computer engineer Mohammed Rateb Qteishat, 33, was killed by Iraqi forces in the northern city of Mosul. He was an al Qaida operative fighting American forces in Iraq. In 2006, he was sentenced to death in absentia in his native Jordan for plotting attacks on Americans in Jordan and attempting to blow up hotels in Amman.

-Nov. 19, four Jordanians of Palestinian origin from Zarqa were killed while fighting American troops in Iraq. The men were all in their 20s and 30s and with the exception of one, had served jail terms in Jordan for plotting anti-American terror attacks. With close ties to the US and diplomatic relations with Israel, Jordan has been the target of more than 100 terror plots blamed on al Qaida in the past decade, according to Jordanian military court records.

Most prominent was a triple hotel bombing in November 2005, which killed 60 Jordanians, mainly women and children.