CIA Director: Seven CIA workers killed in Afghanistan

Leon Panetta confirms seven staff members among the dead in a Taliban suicide blast.

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KABUL // The Taliban claimed responsibility for infiltrating a CIA post with a suicide bomber who set off an explosion that killed seven American intelligence staffers and wounded six others in an attack believed one of the worst in the agency's history. In Washington, the CIA director Leon Panetta said today that the seven killed in the attack "were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that must be done to protect our country from terrorism".

Among those killed was the chief of the CIA's operation at Camp Chapman in the Khost province of eastern Afghanistan. Former CIA officials said the base chief, a mother of three, would have directed and co-ordinated CIA operations and intelligence gathering in the province, a hotbed of Taliban and insurgent activity because of its proximity to Pakistan's lawless tribal region. "There's still a lot to be learned about what happened," said the CIA spokesman George Little. "The key lesson is that counterterrorism work is dangerous. Our fallen and wounded colleagues were on the front lines, conducting essential operations to protect our country."

A US intelligence official said the attack will be avenged through successful, aggressive counterterrorism operations, and said the climate at CIA's headquarters in Langley, Virginia, is "determined". Earlier, a US official who was briefed on the blast said eight US civilians and an Afghan were killed. Harold E Brown Jr, of Fairfax, Virginia, was among the dead, according to his father, Harold E Brown Sr.

The elder Brown said his 37-year-old son served in the Army and worked for the State Department. He is survived by a wife and three children ages 12, 10 and 2. The attack, which wounded six according to Mr Panetta, came on a bloody day for Nato forces. A roadside bombing, also claimed by the Taliban, killed four Canadian soldiers and a Canadian journalist in southern Afghanistan. Elsewhere, police said militants beheaded six Afghans on Thursday for co-operating with government authorities.

* AP