The suicide bomber who killed Canadian Forces Corporal Jamie Murphy of Conception Harbour, Nfld., was a Canadian citizen, the son of al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Said Khadr, according to a Taliban spokesman who spoke yesterday from Afghanistan.
The spokesman suggested it was Abdullah Khadr who walked up to a Canadian patrol in Kabul on Jan. 27 and detonated a bomb. Abdullah is the eldest of four brothers and the only male member of the family who was not detained or shot as a terrorism suspect.
The Taliban account is being treated with much skepticism by Ottawa officials, who said it is not consistent with their information and that it may be misinformation.
Members of Abdullah Khadr's Toronto family deny he is a suicide bomber and described him as a "good boy," a 23-year-old stuck in Pakistan and wanting to return to Canada.
But sources suggest that investigators will try to match the bomber's DNA with that of Abdullah's father, killed by Pakistani counterterrorism agents in October.
Defence Minister David Pratt said Ottawa is looking into the case. "You have to keep in mind that the source here is apparently a Taliban member, and we take all of the information that they provide with a grain of salt. We want to check things out.
"I think we're going to need a lot more details and a lot more evidence from folks in Afghanistan," Mr. Pratt said.
A Taliban spokesman who called himself Mohammed Saiful Adel told Agence France-Presse that the bomber was "Mohammed Abdullah," the child of a Canadian citizen from Egypt and the brother of a young man held by the U.S. Army in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The spokesman described the father as a "fighter during the jihad [holy war] against the Soviets," who "spent a large part of his life in Pakistan and in Afghanistan" and was "killed during a recent operation by the Pakistan army against the village of Angoor Adda."
The stated names of the Khadrs are muddled.
But all other details are consistent with what is known about the family.
Family and friends strongly doubt that Abdullah would blow himself up. Ibrahim Hindy, a family friend who visited him several years ago in Pakistan, described Abdullah as a quiet young man who liked fixing cars and watching movies, such as Pulp Fiction.
"It doesn't make sense to me . . . he was a very calm person," he said, adding that Abdullah had been in touch with members of his Toronto family until recently.
Abdurahman Khadr, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who was returned to Toronto last fall, said in an interview last night that he spoke to Abdullah two weeks ago. They talked about getting some new Nike shoes sent to Abdullah in Pakistan, but Abdurahman said he can't find the type his brother wanted.
"My brother is far away from a phone. No, he hasn't called me and he probably doesn't know anything about [the suicide bomb allegations]. When he does find out, I'm sure he's going to give me a call," Mr. Khadr said. "I know from my heart that it is not him."
At a home in East Toronto, where a tattered, faded Canadian flag fluttered from the front porch, Abdullah's grandmother, Fatmah Elsamnah, reacted strongly.
"You trying to kill me? This is my grandson!
"This is terrible news!" she shouted while waving her hands.
She denied intelligence reports that Abdullah was a commander of a training camp. "Abdullah was trying to come home, and that's it. This news upsets me very much because Abdullah is a good boy and nobody has helped him -- even his government.
The Khadr family and the Canadian government have a strained relationship with each other.
After the father was arrested in Pakistan in 1995 on suspicion of financing a bombing that killed 16 people, the Khadrs repeatedly landed in trouble and looked to Canadian consular officials to bail them out.
He fled Kabul as the United States led an invasion in 2001.
But within months, two of his sons were arrested in Afghanistan.
Abdurahman Khadr, now 21, was arrested in Kabul by Northern Alliance forces, and spent nearly a year in Guantanamo Bay before he was released. He lives in Toronto.
Omar Khadr, now 17, was arrested in July 2002, as U.S. fighters raided an alleged al-Qaeda safe house and killed several enemy fighters. Omar was the sole survivor, but U.S. soldiers said he launched a grenade that killed one of them. He is a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay.
In October, 2003, Pakistani counterterrorism agents killed a group of suspected terrorists. Among them was Ahmed Said Khadr and his 14-year-old son, Abdul Karim. The father was killed; his son paralyzed.