CIA attack linked to top al-Qaida leaders

Jan. 6, 2010 at 3:56 PM
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KHOST, Afghanistan, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Osama bin Laden's inner circle helped plan the Dec. 30 suicide attack in Afghanistan that left seven CIA agents dead, former CIA officials say.

The Times of London reported online Wednesday the attack at the CIA base near Khost required the prior knowledge and assistance of the Haqqani network, a Taliban faction thought to be shielding bin Laden.

The British newspaper said the bombing heightened tensions between the United States and Pakistan because Pakistan has not gone after the Haqqanis, who have free rein in regions on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border where bin Laden is suspected to be hiding.

A source described by The Times as a former CIA bin Laden hunter reportedly said the CIA obtained one electronic intercept of a Pakistani army officer tipping the Haqqanis off to a raid and another in which a member of the Pakistani intelligence service says the "Haqqanis are our guys."

Michael Scheuer, who once led the CIA team looking for bin Laden, said the Haqqanis must have been apprised in advance of the Dec. 30 attack.

"There is no way this operation would have occurred in Khost without the knowledge and active support of Jalaluddin Haqqani and/or his son," Scheuer told The Times.

Likewise, Mahmood Shah, a retired brigadier who was security chief of Pakistan's tribal region, said the attack "may have been planned by al-Qaida, but it could not have been possible without the help of the Haqqani group, which has its stronghold in Khost."

Wiping out seven of the top CIA experts in the hunt for bin Laden was "a huge blow," one unidentified former CIA operative told The Times. "If you are Osama bin Laden, your biggest enemy is the CIA -- and this is a big hit."

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