AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
HONOLULU: President Barack Obama honored Thursday seven Americans killed in an attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan, saying senior Al-Qaeda leaders were now "under more pressure than ever before."
The CIA operatives were killed a year ago by a Jordanian informant who gained access to one of the Central Intelligence Agency's major field bases and set off explosives rigged to his body.
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"As we mark the first anniversary of their sacrifice at Khost, this is the work to which we recommit ourselves today," Obama said in a statement.
"We will ensure that our dedicated intelligence professionals have the training and tools they need to meet the missions we ask of them."
The December 30, 2009 attack on the CIA base in Khost, near the lawless border with Pakistan, was a devastating blow for the spy agency and the second deadliest single assault in CIA history.
"Today, Al-Qaeda's senior leadership is under more pressure than ever before and is hunkered down in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan," Obama insisted.
"We are relentlessly pursuing our mission to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat that terrorist organization."
The bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, was seen by CIA operatives as a valuable contact -- after offering information on Al-Qaeda leadership -- and they had invited him onto the base of the compound without patting him down.
As Balawi was about to undergo a search near a building entrance, he set off his explosive with CIA agents standing nearby.
Balawi was tied to Taliban insurgents battling US-led forces in Afghanistan and had been plotting to attack his CIA handlers, it later emerged.
CIA Director Leon Panetta said after a review released in October that no single individual or group could be assigned blame for the incident, although the internal task force probing the incident concluded the "assailant was not fully vetted and that sufficient security precautions were not taken."