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CIA bomber's widow: No tears for killed mom

By Nic Robertson, CNN
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CIA bomber's widow defiant
  • Defne Bayrak's husband killed seven CIA agents in Afghanistan in suicide attack
  • She said: I was really proud of my husband ... God willing, I say he is a martyr
  • She admits life as a single mom is hard
  • Bayrak has no regrets that one of the CIA victims was a mom of three

Watch more of Nic Robertson's interview with Defne Bayrak on CNNI's "Amanpour."

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) -- When Defne Bayrak arrives there is no mistaking she is the woman we have come to meet. Despite the cold she is composed and ready for the interview we agreed. She is ready to talk about the suicide bombing carried out by her double-agent husband just days earlier, an attack that left seven CIA operatives dead in Afghanistan.

She still wears their wedding ring, a wide band of sparkling engraved gold. Her face is framed in a tightly-wrapped black scarf, she is slightly taller than average, thin but not painfully so and looks younger than her 31 years. Her older sister is at her side to watch over her.

As we sit together on a park bench next to the Ula mosque pigeons flutter low over our heads, disturbed from the scattered grain on the cobbled yard as the faithful braved the chill hurrying to and from prayer. Nearby there is an outdoor market, traders hawking woolens and warm jackets stamp to keep warm at the roadside.

She wants to meet here close to her home in this comfortable suburb on the west of Istanbul. We'd tried to persuade her she'd be more comfortable indoors, out of the cold, away from inquisitive crowds but she'd told her family it must be outside. To meet an unknown man indoors would be inappropriate.

Her sister worries Defne will say something provocative and get herself in to trouble. Like most Turks they are not a radical Islamist family. Defne was the exception. Early photographs suggest an easygoing young woman, her hair uncovered, a ready smile on her face.

This was not the woman I was meeting now. A devout Muslim dressed from head to foot in black, she looked every inch the widow. Her fine, pale features had turned even paler in the biting cold.

She told me how she and Humam al Balawi met at university in Istanbul, how he won her over in four short months of courtship. "Was it love at first sight?" I asked. Her quiet reply: "We should skip these subjects."

She was establishing ground-rules. There were to be no intimate insights, whatever anguish she felt would be well-guarded.

She explained that when they met she was just beginning to follow a stricter interpretation of Islam; she had begun wearing a headscarf and was drawn to the young medical student's strong religious views. He guided her zeal for a more fundamentalist form of her faith.

Moving to Jordan as he completed his medical studies they were happiest when he went to work in a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of the capital, Amman. His hours were short. "He would go at 7 a.m. and come home at 2 p.m. He was comfortable. His salary was also good. He was happy."

But there was a growing conflict within her husband. The blogs he was writing were some of the best respected among jihadists. He wanted to join the fight but instead wrote of his anger.

Read CNN's Afghanistan blog

Soon their first child was born. They were in tune with one another, she was writing books in praise of Osama bin Laden. "We were sharing our views with each other," she explains.

Both were angered by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He had even volunteered to go fight in Iraq with jihadist groups but was turned down. "He met them privately himself and didn't tell me names but these people he met only asked him to collect money and he felt sad."

Their happy co-existence ended when he stopped hiding his online address. Arrested by Jordanian intelligence he was questioned for three days. It changed him. "He became more religious," she told me. "He started memorizing the Quran again."

She is reliving his life, reaching the moment he left her for Pakistan never to return -- but I see no emotion in her face. I sense she wants to defend him.

Defne Bayrak denies knowing what her husband was doing but admits she covered his tracks by telling his family he was in Turkey when in truth she knew he was in Pakistan. "So you helped trick the family?" I ask . "Yes, certainly," came her straightforward answer.

Even when we talk about her two young children she shows little emotion. She admits though her new burden is hard. "We as a family; I am, as a mother and a wife, of course I am sad. I would have definitely wanted my husband to be with us."

There are occasional smiles, glimpses of the woman that might have been. Her sister frets close by, they are bonded by a family's unquestioning love.

A crowd has gathered, including several plainclothes policeman -- one even openly videoing our interview. But Bayrak seems unperturbed as she praises her husband's suicide bombing.

"I was really proud of my husband because we were both truly against the American invasion. I believe that he realized a very important operation in this way. And, God willing, I say he is a martyr."

And the question I most want to ask. What of the mother-of-three CIA operative who was killed in her husband's attack, what of her children? I thought perhaps one mother might feel for another's family. Not so.

She told me: "For what purpose is CIA in the Afghan territories? Why did they invade our lands? I believe she shouldn't have gone there. It's her fault."

"Do you have any remorse?" I asked.

"I don't feel any remorse. I don't see any situation to feel remorse about. They came to invade our countries, to kill our brothers who are fighting against them," she replied. It seemed our discussion had gone about as far as it could.

She'd braved the cold to defend her husband. Even if she had not known his intentions when he went to Pakistan, she was probably in a better position than anyone else to predict its outcome.