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Suicide bomber strikes as Hagel visits Kabul; 9 civilians dead

March 08, 2013|By David S. Cloud
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel walks with U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of the International Security Force, upon Hagel's arrival near Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Friday. A suicide bomber struck the Afghan Defense Ministry building shortly after Hagel's arrival, but the Defense secretary was at a different location.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel walks with U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford,… (Jason Reed / Associated…)

KABUL, Afghanistan --A loud explosion struck outside Afghanistan's Defense Ministry in Kabul on Saturday, reportedly killing at least nine civilians in an attack less than a mile from where U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was staying in the capital.

Gunshots were heard after the blast, which occurred a day after Hagel arrived in a surprise visit to Kabul. The Associated Press reported that Afghan officials said an apparent suicide attacker on a bicycle hit the main entrance to the Defense Ministry about 9 a.m., killing nine people and wounding several others.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, the AP reported.

The U.S. military in Kabul confirmed that there was a "suicide improvised explosive device attack, followed by small-arms fire" near the ministry.

Hagel, on his first trip abroad since becoming Defense secretary, was at a coalition facility in Kabul, safe and unharmed by the explosion, according to a U.S. official.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said Hagel "was in a briefing when the incident occurred.  The briefing continued as planned without interruption."

Reporters accompanying Hagel on his trip were escorted to a basement office at Camp Eggers, a base near the Defense Ministry.

An announcement over the base loudspeaker said the facility was not under direct attack but advised everyone on the base to remain in a  secure location.

Hagel later visited Bagram air base, north of Kabul.

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