War in Afghanistan

Taleban says Cheney was target of suicide blast

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2007, 12:00am

A suicide bomber targeting US Vice-President Dick Cheney killed at least 14 people and wounded about a dozen more at the main US military base in Afghanistan.

The blast yesterday was triggered at the main entrance to the Bagram base, north of Kabul. Mr Cheney was unhurt and later met Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul before leaving the country.

The Taleban immediately claimed responsibility and said Mr Cheney was the target.

The explosion took place near the first of at least three gated checkpoints vehicles must pass through before gaining access.

The sprawling base houses 5,100 US troops and 4,000 other coalition forces and contractors. High security areas within the base are blocked by their own checkpoints. It was unclear how an attacker could expect to penetrate the base, locate the vice-president and get close to him without detection.

'We maintain a high level of security here at all times. Our security measures were in place and the killer never had access to the base,' said Lieutenant-Colonel James Bonner, a base commander. 'When he realised he would not be able to get onto the base he attacked the local population.'

In a military plane on the way to Oman, Mr Cheney said he had heard a 'loud boom' when the attack occurred.

'It was about 10 o'clock this morning ... and shortly after that the Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate - apparently a suicide bomber,' he said. 'They moved me ... to one of the bomb shelters near the quarters I was staying in.'

Seoul said one of its troops stationed in Bagram, Sergeant Yoon Jang-ho, 27, was killed in the blast.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse