The Taliban is claiming that the suicide bomber who blew himself up outside of the U.S. Military base in Bagram, was targeting Dick Cheney. Cheney was not hurt in the attack.
The explosion killed and wounded a number of American and allied soldiers, Afghan and Pakistani truck drivers and laborers waiting for access at the gate. There were conflicting reports of the number of casualties and deaths.
The incident took place at the outermost security gate of the sprawling base, far from where Mr. Cheney was staying at the time. A few hours after the attack, Mr. Cheney traveled to Kabul to meet with President Hamid Karzai, and later left Afghanistan to fly to Oman. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing and said Mr. Cheney was the target of the attack, news agencies reported. Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claimed to be a Taliban spokesman, told the Associated Press: “We knew that Dick Cheney would be staying inside the base.” He said the bombing was carried out by Mullah Abdul Rahim.
The claim could not immediately be verified.
The N.Y. Times reports that the “attack took place in a region of Afghanistan where the Taliban is thought to have very little support, and suicide bombings have been uncommon there.”
Such bombings, especially against high-security targets like the air base, usually involve substantial planning and preparation, and would be difficult to improvise quickly. Mr. Cheney’s presence on the base today was not scheduled and could not have been known before Monday night.
A Taliban spokesman is reported to have told the Associated Press: “We knew that Dick Cheney would be staying inside the base.” However, the N.Y. Times says that “Cheney’s trip to several nations in the region had been shrouded in unusual secrecy.”
Cheney was unphased by the suicide bombing, telling reporters, “I think they clearly try to find ways to question the authority of the central government. Striking at Bagram with a suicide bomber, I suppose, is one way to do that. But it shouldn’t affect our behavior at all.”