Kabul Blast Kills Nine As Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Visits

Kabul Blast Chuck Hagel

Kabul, Afghanistan — A blast in Kabul killed at least nine people and injured 14 more just hours after US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel landed in the Afghan capital.

The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, which targeted the Afghan ministry of defense, according to ISAF spokesman Charlie Stadtlander.

Hagel was in a briefing at the time of the attack, but Pentagon spokesman George Little said the defense secretary “continued as planned without interruption.”

Kabul police reported that the suicide bomber approached the gates on a bicycle, which was also laden with explosives. He detonated near the gate. Other booming sounds were also heard in the minutes before the suicide blast.

Along with claiming responsibility for the attack, a Taliban spokesman also expressed the group’s pleasure that Chuck Hagel was so close to the blast. Attendees of the briefing were moved to a safer location directly after the blast, though they were released soon after and are expected to continue with their scheduled plans.

The Kabul blast also wounded two Afghan National Army officers. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid added that the bomber was from Kandahar. However, he denied that any civilians were wounded or killed in the explosion. The Taliban has repeatedly promised it will not harm civilians.

Despite this, the United Nations has reported that the Taliban and other insurgents have been responsible for 81 percent of the 2,754 civilian deaths and injuries related to the Afghanistan conflict in 2012. The Kabul attack occurred around 8:54 am local time. It was also followed by heavy gunfire as the city’s residents were going to work. The streets were busy with foot traffic, motorcycles, and cars.

A colonel in the operations department reported that the defense ministry’s was put on lock down so that no one could go in or out while police and army officials investigated. The explosion happened in an area that is normally the most busy.

[Image via DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo]