The Taliban continues to reassert its presence in Afghanistan. “Cheney OK after explosion in Afghanistan,” by Alisa Tang for AP, :
BAGRAM, Afghanistan – A suicide bomber killed and wounded some two dozen people outside the main U.S. military base in
Afghanistan on Tuesday during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney. The Taliban claimed responsibility and said Cheney was the target.
The blast happened outside the base at Bagram, north of the capital, Kabul. Cheney’s spokeswoman said he was fine, and the U.S. Embassy said the vice president later met with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.
There were conflicting reports on the death toll. Provincial Gov. Abdul Jabar Taqwa said 20 people were killed, but NATO said initial reports indicated only three were killed, including a U.S. soldier, a South Korean coalition soldier and a U.S. government contractor whose nationality wasn’t immediately known. NATO said 27 people were also wounded.
It was unclear why there was such a large discrepancy in the reports.
Associated Press reporters at the scene said they had seen at least eight dead bodies carried in black body bags and wooden coffins from the base area and into the market area, where hundreds of Afghans had gathered to mourn.
Maj. William Mitchell said it did not appear the explosion was intended as a threat to the vice president. “He wasn’t near the site of the explosion,” Mitchell said. “He was safely within the base at the time of the explosion.”
However, a purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said Cheney was the target of the attack.
“We knew that Dick Cheney would be staying inside the base,” Ahmadi told AP telephone from an undisclosed location. “The attacker was trying to reach Cheney.”