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AFGHANISTAN: One American killed at CIA base in Kabul

September 26, 2011 |  3:15 am

REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- In a rare and lethal security breach at the CIA's main base in Kabul, an Afghan employee shot and killed one U.S. citizen and wounded another, American and Afghan officials confirmed Monday. It was the second attack in less than two weeks on a U.S. Embassy installation in the Afghan capital.

The assailant was also shot and killed in the firefight, which broke out late Sunday, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. The embassy declined to say whether the dead and injured Americans were CIA operatives, but it would be unusual for anyone not closely associated with the agency to be inside the heavily fortified base late at night. The NATO force said they were not members of the military.

The compound-within-a-compound where the shooting took place -- close to the Afghan presidential palace and the U.S. Embassy -- has been described by former intelligence officials as the CIA's main headquarters in the capital. The embassy referred to the site only as an "annex" of the embassy. Worldwide, it is common practice for the CIA to base itself on embassy property.  

There was no immediate claim of responsibility from the Taliban movement, which in the past has frequently managed to infiltrate Afghan army and police units with sleeper agents who then turn their guns on Westerners. The embassy said in a statement that the motive for the shooting was under investigation.

If the U.S. citizen who was killed is confirmed to be a CIA worker, it would be the first such known fatality since December 2009, when a suicide bomber -- believed at the time to be a high-level informant -- was escorted onto a CIA base in Khost province to meet with agency staffers. Seven CIA workers were killed in that blast, considered one of the most serious intelligence debacles of the Afghan war.

The attack came amid escalating security jitters in the Afghan capital. On Sept. 13, a squad of insurgents seized an unfinished high-rise structure a short distance from the embassy and used it to mount a 20-hour siege on the diplomatic compound and the adjoining headquarters of NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

A week later, the Afghan government's chief peace negotiator, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was killed by a suicide bomber posing as a Taliban peace envoy. That attack took place in Rabbani’s home a few blocks from the embassy.


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Photo: An Afghan security personnel leaves the area after a battle with insurgents who took over a building near the U.S. embassy in Kabul in this Sept. 14, 2011 file photo. Credit: Ahmad Masood / Reuters