March 09, 2013
9 Killed in Kabul Attack During Hagel Visit
Afghan officials say the Taliban has claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack Saturday that killed at least nine people outside the Defense Ministry in Kabul during a visit to the capital city by the U.S. defense secretary.
Authorities say Chuck Hagel is in a safe location and was not harmed in the attack.
A local official says the suicide attacker arrived outside the Defense Ministry on a bicycle, setting off his explosives. The blast was followed by gunfire.
The Taliban said the attack was meant as a warning to U.S. defense chief.
Hagel arrived in Afghanistan Friday on his first foreign trip since being confirmed as Pentagon chief by the U.S. Senate last week.
Speaking to reporters as he flew to Kabul, Hagel expressed optimism about the transfer of security responsibility to Afghan forces prior to the departure of U.S.-led coalition forces in 2014.
He said the transition is happening in a way that gives the Afghan people "a very hopeful future."
Last month, Hagel's predecessor, Leon Panetta, said that NATO allies were considering leaving between 8,000 and 12,000 international troops in Afghanistan after 2014. There are currently around 100,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, including 66,000 U.S. troops.
Hagel said that while in Afghanistan he would meet with U.S. commanders and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.