CIA Post Chief Among Casualties in Afghanistan Blast

BY Larisa Epatko  December 31, 2009 at 3:35 PM EST

CIA Director Leon Panetta said Thursday that seven employees were killed and six others wounded when a suicide bomber detonated a vest of explosives at Forward Operating Base Chapman in eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Former CIA officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that one of those killed was the chief of the CIA post in the southeastern Khost Province and was a mother of three. The CIA has launched an internal review of how a suicide bomber got into the base, but Panetta said it would not deter the agency’s work: “Those who fell yesterday were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that must be done to protect our country from terrorism,” he said. “We owe them our deepest gratitude, and we pledge to them and their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause to which they dedicated their lives — a safer America.”

A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said in a statement that an Afghan National Army officer wearing a suicide vest entered the base and blew himself up inside the gym. The post was a military facility that later became a base for CIA operations. Members of Provincial Reconstruction Teams reportedly still used the site. The New York Times reports that the base plays a pivotal role in the Afghan military effort.

Before Wednesday’s attack, four known CIA operatives had been killed in Afghanistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. President Obama, who is in Hawaii for the holidays, delivered a message to CIA employees: “In recent years, the CIA has been tested as never before. Since our country was attacked on September 11, 2001, you have served on the frontlines in directly confronting the dangers of the 21st century. Because of your service, plots have been disrupted, American lives have been saved, and our Allies and partners have been more secure. Your triumphs and even your names may be unknown to your fellow Americans, but your service is deeply appreciated.”

The Washington Post chronicles CIA fatalities in the line of duty since the agency’s inception in 1947. We’ll have more on the attack in Afghanistan on Thursday’s NewsHour.