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Seven CIA agents, five Canadians die in Taliban attacks
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed seven CIA agents, reporting that the bomber was an Afghan army officer. The attack follows the earlier deaths of five Canadians in a separate bomb attack in Kandahar province.
REUTERS - A suicide bomber penetrated a base used by the CIA in Afghanistan and killed seven officers from the U.S. intelligence agency, the second deadliest attack in CIA history and its worst in the eight-year-old Afghan war.
The Taliban claimed the attacker as a sympathizer from the Afghan army who detonated a vest of explosives at a meeting with CIA workers on Wednesday.
The latest attack, which also killed one Afghan and injured six CIA employees, highlighted the insurgency’s reach and coordination at a time when violence has reached its highest levels since the overthrow of the Taliban regime by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001.
Also on Wednesday, five Canadians—four soldiers and a journalist—were killed when their armored vehicle was hit by a bomb in southern Kandahar province, the Canadian Defence Ministry said.
A spokesman for NATO-led forces in Afghanistan acknowledged Afghan security forces were working on the base where the CIA officers were killed.
The CIA launched a review of security protocols following the attack, the deadliest since eight agency employees were killed in a bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut in 1983, U.S. officials said.
CIA Director Leon Panetta said on Thursday the deaths would not deter the agency.
A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said:”There are plenty of people here who are capable and willing to make sure that these people will be avenged.”
“This incident is being looked at very, very carefully, and what there is to be learned will be learned,” the official added.
“This deadly attack was carried out by a valorous Afghan army member,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters.
The Afghan Defense Ministry said no Afghan soldiers were involved in the attack and said none were stationed at the site of the attack in southeastern Khost province.
But if the bomber does prove to be from the army, it would mark the second deadly attack in three days on foreign troops and officials by the soldiers they are meant to be mentoring.
Trusting Afghan troops
An Afghan soldier killed a U.S. service member and wounded two Italian soldiers when he opened fire on foreign troops at an army base in western Afghanistan on Tuesday.
A string of such killings have cast a shadow over Western plans to bolster the Afghan army and police to allow them to eventually bring their own troops back home.
U.S. President Barack Obama is sending 30,000 extra troops to tackle the violence and NATO allies are contributing thousands more, but Obama has also said he hopes to start scaling back in 2011. An Afghan army official said on Wednesday that Washington had pledged $16 billion to train the army and air force.
The CIA has been expanding its presence in the country, stepping up strikes against Taliban and al Qaeda militants along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Its role has been criticized by rights groups and Afghans.
The site of the suicide attack is near the Pakistan border, in one of the areas where the Taliban insurgency is strongest.
The blast that killed the five Canadians struck the patrol as it was visiting community reconstruction projects near Kandahar.
The journalist killed, Michelle Lang, 34, was on assignment for the Canwest News Service. She was on her first assignment in Afghanistan and had been in the country since Dec. 11.
She is the third journalist to die in Afghanistan this year.
Two French journalists were also kidnapped by insurgents on Wednesday, when travelling in an area northeast of the capital with a driver and translator, a police official said. Media sources in Paris said they were working for French television.
Washington has pledged a “civilian surge,” adding hundreds of U.S. experts to support work on development projects that aim to undermine support for the Taliban and other insurgents.
But foreign aid agencies warned earlier this year that the shift into the military bases, and the use of military personnel to carry out development projects, risked a dangerous blurring of the boundaries between troops and civilians.