Body of CIA man flown home

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The Independent Online

The remains of CIA officer Johnny Michael Spann, killed during a prison uprising in northern Afghanistan, were returned to the United States in a flag-draped coffin yesterday.

Spann was the first known American combat death in the Allied campaign in Afghanistan.

George Tenet, the director of the CIA, who had been overseas on business, accompanied Spann's body from Germany, a spokesman for the agency said.

When the plane arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, outside Washington DC, the former Marine's widow, children and parents went inside the aircraft to view the remains. Spann's casket was then carried by six members of a Marine honour guard to a hearse and taken to a private mortuary. There was no arrival ceremony or remarks, and burial details have not been set.

Spann, 32, an officer with the CIA's covert paramilitary Special Activities Division, died a week ago during the uprising at Qalai-Janghi fortress near Mazar-i-Sharif when Taliban and al-Qa'ida prisoners seized weapons from their Northern Alliance captors.

Spann was believed to be involved in the Northern Alliance interrogation of prisoners inside the fort when the uprising started. The CIA would not comment on the nature of his activities at the time.

Hundreds of Taliban and al-Qa'ida fighters were being held prisoner at the 19th-century fort on 25 November when they took rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers from their captors.

Spann's body was recovered days later from inside the compound after the prisoners' revolt had been quelled by a combination of US airstrikes and Northern Alliance forces. Hundreds of prisoners were killed and only 80 survived.