(Bagram, Afghanistan) A suicide bomber killed at least 15 people, injuring dozens more, outside a US military base in Afghanistan today during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney was not hurt during the explosion.
The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press agency, quoting other police sources, said 20 people had been killed.
The Taliban claimed initial responsibility for the attack, and a spokesman for the group claims the bomber knew Cheney was visiting the Bagram air base, which is located 40 miles north of Kabul.
"We wanted to target … Cheney," said Taliban commander Mullah Hayat Khan from an undisclosed location.
If the Taliban claims of prior knowledge of the Cheney visit are legitimate, the government of Hamid Karzai will likely be embarassed by this attack. The arrival of an American dignitary as important as Cheney would have been a closely-guarded secret, and the leaking of such information in time for an attack to be planned would have occurred high up in the Afghan government.
The Taliban has been boasting of a spring offensive in 2007, and there is widespread suspicion that record Afghan opium crops - estimated to account for over 90% of the world's supply of opium - may be benefitting the Taliban, either through direct funding of insurgent activities or through alliances with powerful Afghan drug lords.