Cheney in Afghanistan Suicide Bomb Kills up to 20 at Bagram Air Base

A bomb exploded outside the Bagram air base in Afghanistan where US Vice President Dick Cheney was paying an unannounced visit. The Taliban says he was a target, but Cheney was in no danger.

A suicide bomb outside a gate of the main American military base in Afghanistan on Tuesday morning may have killed as many as 23 people but left US Vice President Dick Cheney unhurt. Cheney was staying overnight at the Bagram air base during a surprise visit to the country.

"He wasn't near the site of the explosion," said Maj. William Mitchell, who aded that Cheney was not a target. "He was safely within the base at the time of the explosion."

At least one American soldier was among the dead as were an American contractor, a South Korean soldier and a number of locals. Some 20 people were wounded. Conflicting reports put the death toll as low as four, but a police officer at the scene, Haji Khawani, said, "It as a suicide attack. I can see 10 bodies scattered outside the base."

The Associated Press reported that its reporter on the scene had seen 12 bodies carried away in body bags.

A man named Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the Taliban and contradicted Maj. Mitchell's assertion that Cheney was not a target. "We knew that Dick Cheney would be staying inside the base," he told the Associated Press. "The attacker was trying to reach Cheney." He gave the suicide bomber's name as Mullah Abdul Rahim, an Afghan.

The start of the spring offensive?

Cheney landed in Afghanistan Monday after a brief visit to Pakistan, where he met with Gen. Pervez Musharraf to warn him about Taliban and al-Qaida fighters re-grouping along the Afghan-Pakistani border. A meeting with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai scheduled for Monday was cancelled when snowfall prevented Cheney's helicopter from leaving Bagram air base for Kabul, the capital, which is 60 kilometers (40 miles) away.

Cheney instead met with Karzai on Tuesday. Journalists following Cheney said they didn't hear the morning explosion, and local security officials told SPIEGEL ONLINE the attacker blew himself up at one of the base's outer security checkpoints, where Afghan soldiers inspect approaching vehicles.

Both of Cheney's official visits, in Islamabad as well as Kabul, underscored US anxiety about a spring offensive  long promised by the Taliban, which is reportedly better organized and better funded this year with money from record-setting opium crops. About 4,000 people died in heavy fighting last year -- the bloodiest year since 2001, when Western forces drove the Taliban from power in the wake of Sept. 11. Taliban leaders have promised new violence after the snows melt this year – including a sharp increase in suicide attacks.


Mehr lesen über

Verwandte Artikel

Die Wiedergabe wurde unterbrochen.
Speichern Sie Ihre Lieblingsartikel in der persönlichen Merkliste, um sie später zu lesen und einfach wiederzufinden.
Jetzt anmelden
Sie haben noch kein SPIEGEL-Konto? Jetzt registrieren