x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

CIA staff among the dead in Taliban blast

A US congressional official says CIA staff are among nine dead after a suicide bomb in eastern Afghanistan.

KABUL // The Taliban claimed responsibility today for a suicide bombing at a base in eastern Afghanistan that killed eight American civilians and one Afghan, the worst loss of life for the US in the country since October. A US congressional official said CIA employees are believed to be among the victims. Separately, four Canadian soldiers and a journalist embedded in their unit were killed yesterday by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan's south, the bloodiest single incident suffered by that country's military in 2009.

Michelle Lang, a 34-year-old health reporter with the Calgary Herald, was the first Canadian journalist to die in Afghanistan. She arrived in the country just two weeks ago. It was not immediately clear how the suicide bomber at the base at the edge of Khost city was able to circumvent security. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement that an Afghan National Army officer wearing a suicide vest entered the base yesterday and blew himself up inside the gym. A US official who was briefed on the blast also said it took place in the gym.

Khost is the capital of Khost province, which borders Pakistan and is a Taliban stronghold. The US official said eight American civilians and one Afghan were killed; it was not clear if the Afghan victim was military or civilian. Six Americans were wounded, the official said. The CIA has not yet commented on or confirmed the deaths. There was no independent confirmation that the bomber was a member of the Afghan military.

Gen Mohammad Zahir Azimi, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, said no Afghan National Army soldiers are at the base, named FOB Chapman. But an Afghan official in Khost said about 200 Afghans have been contracted by the US to take care of security at the base. * AP