The suicide bomber accused of killing seven CIA employees and a Jordanian intelligence officer in Afghanistan 10 days ago was a loner who shunned even family birthday parties, his mother has said.
As the CIA struggles to comprehend how they got it so wrong with Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi – until the blast at an agency outpost in eastern Afghanistan on 30 December they considered him their best hope yet for infiltrating the leadership of al-Qa'ida – his loved ones are painting a picture of a studious and secretive man.
The suspect's mother, 64-year-old Shanara, said: "He was always a loner. His sister would have a party and he would not go," she told The New York Times. She also recalls him scoring 96.5 per cent in his high school graduation.
In the last months of his life, his family in Jordan had thought he was taking additional medical studies in Turkey, where he had moved with his wife and two young daughters last spring, hoping eventually to move to the United States. But his widow revealed that he had spent much of last year in Pakistan.
Defne Bayrak learnt of her husband's actions on 31 December. Nearly two weeks later, she hasn't told their girls. While she was surprised that al-Balawi would take such a step, she is proud of him, she told Turkish TV. She knew her husband had been posting on blogs that espoused violence against America.
Jordanian officials have said he was picked up in January last year for his jihadi writings and that some time after his release he emailed them from Pakistan offering information on al-Qa'ida. His family said he was detained after volunteering in a clinic in Gaza after the Israeli invasion – an experience that had left him a changed person.
"I am proud of my husband. I think my husband conducted a very big operation in a kind of war," his widow said.