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CIA chief confirms deaths of 7 agents in Afghanistan

RIA Novosti


WASHINGTON, January 1 (RIA Novosti) - CIA chief Leon Panetta has confirmed in an official statement that seven CIA operatives were killed and six others were wounded in a recent terrorist attack in eastern Afghanistan.

The deadly attack occurred on Wednesday when a suicide bomber reportedly evaded security at a U.S. base in the eastern province of Khost and detonated an explosive belt in a room used as a fitness center.

Panetta said on Thursday that the seven killed "were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that must be done to protect our country from terrorism."

The radical Islamic Taliban group has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Forward Operating Base Chapman, which killed, among others, the chief of the CIA's operation in the region.

According to official data, prior to Wednesday attack, only four known CIA operatives have been killed in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led campaign toppled the Taliban movement from power in the war-torn Central Asian country in 2001.

In a second terrorist attack on Wednesday, also claimed by Taliban, four Canadian soldiers and a female reporter for the Calgary Herald newspaper were killed by a roadside bombing in the southern province of Kandahar.

Taliban has recently vowed to step up resistance in response to a U.S. decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and a separate U.S.-led coalition, involved in Operation Enduring Freedom, have a total of 112,000 troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. has by far the largest force, with some 68,000 troops.

In early December, U.S. President Barack Obama said in a televised address to the nation that the United States would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in the first part of 2010 to defeat the Taliban and establish law and order.

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