Washington, Jan.1 (ANI): The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) base attacked by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan this week was at the heart of a covert program overseeing strikes by the agency's remote-controlled aircraft along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, officials familiar with the installation said Thursday.
The blast early Wednesday evening in eastern Khost province killed seven CIA officers and contractors, including the base chief, and seriously wounded six others in what intelligence officials described as a devastating blow to one of the agency's key intelligence hubs for counter-terrorism operations, the Washington Post reports.
The CIA deaths were formally acknowledged by the agency in a statement to employees Thursday by Director Leon E. Panetta, who said the heavy toll was a reminder of the "real danger" that confronts intelligence officers on the fronts of the two wars.
"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," Panetta said in his message to employees.
He announced that flags at CIA headquarters in McLean would be flown at half-staff to honor the dead.
As is customary, the CIA declined to identify the victims. Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair did not publicly comment on the deaths, but a spokesman said he sent an internal, classified message expressing his condolences.
President Obama posted a letter to CIA employees honoring those killed, whom he called "part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life." (ANI)