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Eight Americans, Five Canadians Killed In Afghan Attacks

"Calgary Herald" reporter Michelle Lang, who was killed while on assignment in Kandahar Province.
(RFE/RL) -- In what is being described as one of the worst attacks ever against the CIA, a suicide bomber penetrated a foreign military base in the southeastern Afghan province of Khost on December 30 and killed eight American civilians.

News agencies quotes U.S. officials as saying that the dead are believed to have been employees of the U.S. spy agency.

The CIA has not commented on the incident.

Western security officials said that no NATO or U.S. troops were killed in the attack.

A separate bomb attack on the same day killed four Canadian troops and a Canadian journalist in volatile southern Kandahar Province.

In statements sent to news agencies, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed that an Afghan National Army officer wearing a suicide vest entered the base and blew himself up inside the gym.

Latest Such Incident

The attack inside Forward Operating Base Chapman, in Khost Province near the Pakistani border, was the second incident in as many days of a soldier from the Afghan Army killing the foreign troops and officials who are meant to be mentoring them.

On December 29, an Afghan soldier killed a U.S. soldier and wounded two Italian soldiers before being shot and wounded at a military base in western Afghanistan.

In November, an Afghan police officer killed five British trainers in southern Helmand Province, while in October an Afghan police officer killed two U.S. Marine trainers.

Experts say such incidents underscore the extreme danger that Taliban infiltration of Afghanistan's security forces pose to international forces, while casting a shadow over Western plans to bolster the Afghan Army and police.

The training of Afghan security forces is a key component of U.S. President Barack Obama's new strategy, as nearly 40,000 extra U.S. and NATO troops are being deployed to Afghanistan to tackle the growing insurgency. An Afghan Army official said on December 30 that Washington has pledged $16 billion to train the Afghan military.

Bomb Struck Armored Vehicle

Recent attacks also highlight the dangers faced by journalists, aid workers, and civilian-led reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

Speaking to journalists in southern Kandahar Province, the top Canadian commander in Afghanistan, General Daniel Menard, said today that the five Canadians were killed when their armored vehicle was hit by a bomb.

The blast struck a patrol about 4 kilometers outside Kandahar as it was visiting community reconstruction projects.

"The soldiers were conducting a community security patrol in order to gather information on the pattern of life and maintain security in the area," Menard said. "The journalist was traveling with them to tell the story of what Canada's soldiers are doing in Afghanistan."

Thirty-four-year-old Michelle Lang was a health reporter for the "Calgary Herald" and was on assignment for the Canwest News Service. It was her first reporting trip to Afghanistan. She had been in the country since December 11.

Lang is the third journalist to die in Afghanistan this year.

The attack brought Canada's military deaths in Afghanistan to 138. Canada has a 2,800-strong military mission in Afghanistan. The mission has become increasingly unpopular at home and it is scheduled to be withdrawn at the end of 2011.