The Central Intelligence Agency just released this statement:
CIA Director Leon E. Panetta informed the Agency workforce today that seven of their colleagues were killed and six others were injured on Wednesday at a Forward Operating Base in Khost Province, Afghanistan. The casualties were the result of a terrorist attack.
"Those who fell yesterday were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that must be done to protect our country from terrorism," Director Panetta said in a message to employees. "We owe them our deepest gratitude, and we pledge to them and their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause to which they dedicated their lives--a safer America."
"Families have been our Agency's first priority," Director Panetta added. "Before sharing this information with anyone else, we wanted to be in contact with each of them. This is the most difficult news to bear under any circumstances, but that it comes during the holidays makes it even harder. In coming days and weeks, we will comfort them and honor their loved ones as a family. They are in our thoughts and prayers -- now and always."
Due to the sensitivity of their mission and other ongoing operations, neither the names of those killed nor the details of their work are being released at this time.
"Yesterday's tragedy reminds us that the men and women of the CIA put their lives at risk every day to protect this nation," Director Panetta said. "Throughout our history, the reality is that those who make a real difference often face real danger."
Director Panetta credited US military doctors and nurses with saving the lives of those wounded in the attack. In honor and memory of the dead, he requested that the flags at CIA Headquarters be flown at half-staff.
The latest reports from Afghanistan had been that 8 Americans died in yesterday's suicide bombing. We don't know yet why the number has changed or whether another American might have been killed. It's also possible there was some initial confusion.
Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. The Associated Press says it has learned that "the chief of the CIA's base in the Khost province of Afghanistan was among those killed."
(NPR's Mary Louise Kelly forwarded Panetta's statement to us.)