- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Two contractors working for the CIA were killed in an ambush in Afghanistan, the agency said yesterday.

William Carlson, 43, of Southern Pines, N.C., and Christopher Glenn Mueller, 32, of San Diego, were “tracking terrorists operating in the region” of Shkin, a village in eastern Afghanistan, when they were killed Saturday, the CIA said in a statement. Both were veterans of military special operations forces, the agency said.

“William Carlson and Christopher Mueller were defined by dedication and courage,” CIA Director George J. Tenet said in the statement. “Their sacrifice for the peoples of the United States and Afghanistan must never be forgotten.”

The pair was working for the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, which conducts clandestine intelligence gathering and covert operations. The statement said the agency consulted with the dead contractors’ families and decided that their names could be released without compromising ongoing operations.

They are the third and fourth CIA operatives who the agency has acknowledged have been killed in the line of duty since the September 11 attacks.

The first, paramilitary officer Johnny Michael Spann, was killed during an uprising of Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners in northern Afghanistan on Nov. 25, 2001. The second, Helge Boes, died in a training accident in eastern Afghanistan on Feb. 5 this year.

The area Mr. Carlson and Mr. Mueller were operating in is part of the remote, mountainous region along the Pakistani border, where terror mastermind Osama bin Laden is thought to be hiding. It is also a stronghold for al Qaeda, Taliban and other anti-U.S. fighters.

The agency did not provide particulars on the ambush or the two operatives’ mission, but it appeared connected to pitched battles in the area that were described by Afghan and American military officials.

In one fight, six U.S.-allied Afghan militiamen were wounded in a battle with 25 fighters. American attack jets and helicopters were summoned, and “about 18 enemy personnel” were killed, according to a statement from the coalition.

The statement says no coalition personnel were killed, but it is not clear whether that would include operatives working for the CIA.

Mohammed Ali Jalali, governor of the Paktika province, said yesterday that a separate battle Saturday in the same province’s Gomal district, about two miles from the Pakistani border, left 10 rebels dead — including four Arabs.

As contractors, Mr. Carlson and Mr. Mueller were not CIA staff employees. Agency officials declined to detail the nature of their employment.

The CIA has a unit for conducting commando-style covert operations, called the Special Operations Group. It appears the two were functioning in that capacity, but it was not known how many such contractors the agency has hired.

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