- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Taliban suicide bomber this morning killed 23 in an attack outside Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan, where Vice President Dick Cheney was staying.

“It was about 10 a.m. this morning, I heard a loud boom,” Mr. Cheney told reporters on board his plane after leaving Afghanistan.

“And shortly after that, the Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate, apparently a suicide bomber,” Mr. Cheney said.

White House reporters with the vice president saw a large plume of smoke rising from the direction of the front gate.

Mr. Cheney was far away from the blast, but was led to a bomb bunker “for a brief time,” he said.

“As the situation settled down and they had a better sense of what was going on, I went back to my room,” Mr. Cheney said.

Mr. Cheney’s plane left the base for a short flight to Kabul nearly two hours after the blast.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi called the Associated Press and said Mr. Cheney was the target of the attack.

“We knew that Dick Cheney would be staying inside the base,” Ahmadi said. “The attacker was trying to reach Cheney.”

Ahmadi said the attacker was an Afghan named Mullah Abdul Rahim, from Logar province.

Mr. Cheney was informed by reporters of the Taliban’s claim.

“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,” Mr. Cheney said. “But it shouldn’t affect our behavior at all.”

Mr. Cheney is near the end of an extended trip to the Middle East and South Asia, where he has focused on strengthening U.S. allies against terrorism, particularly Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The vice president stayed overnight at Bagram Air Force base on Monday after bad weather prevented him from flying to Kabul to meet with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

When Mr. Cheney arrived in Kabul today[tue] for his meeting with Mr. Karzai, armed guards met his plane on the tarmac with guns drawn.

White House spokeswoman Dana M. Perino said President Bush had not spoken with Mr. Cheney this morning, and was not awakened during the night, when the first reports of the bombing came in.

Mr. Cheney will return to Washington tomorrow morning, Mrs. Perino said.

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