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Failed attempt to kill Cheney leaves 23 dead

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February 27, 2007

By ALISA TANG

A suicide bomber attacked the entrance to the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Tuesday during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney, killing up to 23 people and wounding 20. Cheney was unhurt in the attack, which was claimed by the Taliban and was the closest that militants have come to a top U.S. official visiting Afghanistan. At least one U.S. soldier, an American contractor and a South Korean soldier were among the dead, NATO said.

022707cheney.jpgCheney said the attackers were trying “to find ways to question the authority of the central government.” A Taliban spokesman said Cheney was the target.

About two hours after the blast, Cheney left on a military flight for Kabul to meet with President Hamid Karzai and other officials, then left Afghanistan.

The vice president had spent the night at the sprawling Bagram Air Base, ate breakfast with the troops, and met with Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

He was preparing to leave for a meeting with Karzai when the suicide bomber struck about 10 a.m., sending up a plume of smoke visible by reporters accompanying him. U.S. military officials declared a “red alert” at the base.

“I heard a loud boom,” Cheney told reporters. “The Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate.”

He said he was moved “for a brief period of time” to a bomb shelter on the base near his quarters. “As the situation settled down and they had a better sense of what was going on, I went back to my room,” Cheney added.

Asked if the Taliban were trying to send a message with the attack, Cheney said: “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,” he said. “But it shouldn’t affect our behavior at all.”

Maj. William Mitchell said it did not appear the explosion was intended as a threat to Cheney. “He wasn’t near the site of the explosion,” Mitchell said. “He was safely within the base at the time of the explosion.”

There were conflicting reports on the death toll. Karzai’s office said 23 people were killed, including 20 Afghan workers at the base. Another 20 people were injured, it said.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said initial reports were that three people were killed, including a U.S. soldier, an American contractor and a South Korean soldier. U.S. officials indicated they planned to update that death toll.

Associated Press reporters at the scene saw 12 bodies being carried in black body bags and wooden coffins from the base entrance into a market area where hundreds of Afghans had gathered to mourn.

Friends and relatives cried and moaned as they took the bodies away from the base. Two men came to the base entrance crying and wringing their hands, one of them screaming, “My brother!”

A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said Cheney was the target of the attack, which Ahmadi said was carried out by an Afghan called Mullah Abdul Rahim, of Logar province.

“We knew that Dick Cheney would be staying inside the base,” Ahmadi told AP by telephone from an undisclosed location. “The attacker was trying to reach Cheney.”

Mitchell noted that Cheney’s overnight stay occurred only after a meeting with Karzai on Monday was canceled because of bad weather.

“I think it’s a far-fetched allegation,” he said, referring to the Taliban claim. “The vice president wasn’t even supposed to be here overnight, so this would have been a surprise to everybody.”

White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said she could not confirm that the Taliban was behind the attack.

Perino said President Bush got an update Tuesday morning about the attack, but had not yet spoken to Cheney about it. Bush was not awakened to be told about the attack, she said.

“Of course, we’re glad that he’s OK,” Perino said of Cheney.

The explosion happened near the first of at least three gated checkpoints vehicles must pass through before gaining access to Bagram.

The base houses 5,100 U.S. troops and 4,000 other coalition forces and contractors. High security areas within the base are blocked by their own checkpoints. It was unclear how an attacker could expect to penetrate the base, locate Cheney and get close to him without detection.

“We maintain a high-level of security here at all times. Our security measures were in place and the killer never had access to the base,” said Lt. Col. James E. Bonner, the base operations commander. “When he realized he would not be able to get onto the base, he attacked the local population.”

Khan Shirin, a private security guard, sobbed near the body of his relative, Farvez, a truck driver and the representative of transport association that hauls goods for the base. Shirin said many of the people killed were truck drivers waiting to get inside.

Ajmall, a shopkeeper, said the “huge” blast shook a small market where he has a stall about 500 yards from the Bagram base. Ajmall, who goes by one name, said those wounded were taken inside the U.S. base for treatment.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said one of its troops stationed in Bagram, Sgt. Yoon Jang-ho, 27, was killed in the explosion. South Korea has about 200 engineers and medics in Bagram.

Cheney later flew by plane to Kabul, 30 miles south of Bagram, to meet Karzai after a planned meeting on Monday was canceled because of bad weather that prevented the vice president making the trip to the capital.

Cheney was met by guards with guns drawn on the tarmac and was rushed by ground convoy to the presidential palace, where he and Karzai walked a long receiving line and past oriental rugs laid out on the wet, stone pavement.

Cheney and Karzai met privately for an hour and spoke about the “problems coming from Pakistan,” said an Afghan government official, a reference to cross-border infiltration by militants who launch attacks in Afghanistan.

“We understand now that the U.S. government realizes that in order to stop terrorism in Afghanistan and to stop terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, there must be a clear fight against terrorism in Pakistan,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Five years after their fundamentalist regime was toppled, Taliban-led militants have stepped up their attacks and Afghan, U.S. and NATO forces are bracing for a fresh wave of violence in the spring.

Such an attack, the closest militants have got to a top U.S. official visiting Afghanistan, will likely have propaganda value for the resurgent Taliban movement.

In January 2006, a militant blew himself up in Uruzgan province during a supposedly secret visit by the U.S. ambassador, killing 10 Afghans.

There were 139 suicide bombings last year, a fivefold increase over 2005, and Rodriguez has said he expects the number of suicide bombs to rise even further in 2007.

In the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, meanwhile, a suicide attacker targeting police blew himself up, wounding three people, said police officer Abdul Nafai.

NATO-led troops patrolling the city also fatally shot a civilian who drove too close to their convoy, police said, the third such fatal shooting this month. Squadron Leader David Marsh, a military spokesman, said soldiers had signalled for the car to stop, but it kept approaching.

___

Associated Press reporters Amir Shah in Bagram and Noor Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

30 Responses to Failed attempt to kill Cheney leaves 23 dead

  1. Judy

    February 27, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    The headlines should have read…

    THEY MISSED..DAMN IT !

  2. Susan

    February 27, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Yes those crafty Taliban were tracking Dick’s every move from their caves with their hi-tech sophistry. They jumped right on it and claimed responsibility, my aren’t they good. Why are we fighting the Taliban anyway… Why are we in Afghanistan for that matter…..

  3. Judy DiGennaro

    February 27, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    Oh, bad, bad, Judy. That is exactly what I thought.

    It does seem as though both in Afghanistan and Iraq a good deal of the violence counts on a heavy body count and the odds of the person they are trying to kill being a part of that body count. They were certainly not acting with precision or they would have killed Cheney. Would he then have been the sacrificial goat? Would Americans rally to the cause (like they did with John Birch’s death in Korea?)? Once again I am compelled to ask what on earth does this administration think it is doing????

    Judy Di

  4. Susan

    February 27, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    Meanwhile thanks to Dick dumbfuck; A car bomb has killed 18 children at a soccer field in Ramadi, Iraqi state television reports…

  5. kate

    February 27, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    What a shame. Couldn’t they have sent a guy with better aim..

    Bush/Cheney will blame this on Iran or some other place they want to blow up.

  6. california rick

    February 27, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    “failed attempt”? Puh-leeze, the guy couldn’t even get onto the compound. The VP was never in danger.

  7. Carl Nemo

    February 27, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    “Why are we fighting the Taliban anyway… Why are we in Afghanistan for that matter…?” In answer to Susan’s question as to why we are in Afghanistan it’s simply about “natural gas” and the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline a deal that’s been in the making for 10 years. Bush/Cheney and Enron are the main players in the deal. A contract was initially hammered out with the Taliban but evidently the aforementioned players decided to double-cross the Taliban. Russia’s Gazprom pulled out of the deal, so it became expedient for Bush/Cheney to doublecross the Taliban. As I’ve said so many times to folks on CHP it’s about “OIL/GAS” and the care and feeding of the M.I. Complex. The Taliban are beginning to resurrect themselves and they have a visceral hatred for Bush/Cheney due to the doublecross on the pipeline deal. Cheney’s reason for the trip was to do some serious hand “pressing” in order to get the message across to the duty puppets that they best get crackin’ or there’s going to be a regime change in Pakistan and Afghanistan courtesy of U.S. Special Ops. It’s like a mob chieftain having to pay a visit to some out-of-line lower capos providing some eye-to-eye contact for motivational purposes… :)) I’ll provide some links to bring folks up to speed concerning the gas pipeline along with all it’s seedy, crooked, corporate nuances.

    http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2006/2006-04-17-05.asp

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-Afghanistan_Pipeline

    http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/oilwar1.html

  8. Kent Shaw

    February 27, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    .

    Oh, great. Just freaking great. Now “The Dick” can claim he’s seen combat.

    .

  9. JimZ

    February 27, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Carl Nemo – you left out a couple of important details. Unocal and Bechtel were also major players in the pipleine deal. AND the current U.S. Ambassador (Viceroy) to Iraq (the al-Khalid) guy, was the broker in the middle of the Afghanistan pipeline deal. Now he’s OUR ambassador to Iraq? That kinda smells…

    I DO like your comparison to the mob, there. Darth is the “enforcer”. Karl is the strategist. Bu$h is the Pinoccio. He got a nose job, though. Burned it up with, well, you know what!

  10. JimZ

    February 27, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    BTW – The al-Khalid guy was an employee of Unocal before and during the pipeline deal (and probably still is).

  11. Gloria Bryant

    February 27, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    I hate to follow the crowd, but this is one exception to the rule. If only it had been a hit! Then we would have had one less a$$ to impeach! One can only hope the jerk-off Cheney won’t go anywhere else thus endangering even more lives. My sincere sympathies to the families of those killed to get at one JACKA$$.

  12. Carl Nemo

    February 27, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    Thanks JimZ for embellishing the plot;i.e.,a pipeline deal gone bad. I am aware of your aforementioned additional players. My intention was to simply get the message across that we aren’t in Afghanistan to look for terrorists. Bush/Cheney are in Afghanistan to rub-out a former business partner; i.e., the Taliban.

    p.s. My apologies for abbreviating Capitol Hill Blue as “CHP” instead of CHB in my earlier post.

  13. CharlieB

    February 27, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    One point that I consider important and that may not have been made is HOW these attackers knew that Dick was in da’ house. His movements are almost laughably covert and yet someone in a privileged position was able to deliver his location into the hands of insurgents within a matter of hours; it’s clear that anti-US informants and acting at the very highest levels of the Iraqi security services.

    In other news; slimebag, cut-and-run war-profiteer and Prince of Darkness Richard Perle is accusing all and sundry, but especially Powell and Rice of ‘letting down the President’.

  14. Sonorous Pest

    February 27, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    Let’s all hope there is a next time.

  15. Boots

    February 27, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    HEY ALISA, YOU REALLY DON’T BELIEVE THAT HEADLINE OF YOURS, DO YOU?

  16. The South Point

    February 28, 2007 at 12:00 am

    How DARE moslems try to kill Cheney!

    What cheek! The VP belongs to us so we can send Darth Cheney for lengthy stay (or not. Depends on how long the pacemaker continues to work) at Leavenworth.

  17. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    February 28, 2007 at 12:25 am

    I agree with Kent, Big Dick Cheney can now say he’s a combat veteran after that close brush with that explosion!

    WHOA! I just thought of something.

    Wolfowitz had a close brush with a rocket attack Oct 26, 2003, at the Rashid Hotel in Baghdad, where he was staying -he got a little scuffed up.

    So Wolfowitz is a ‘combat veteran’ as well as “The Dick”.

    “Wolfo-dick” is also a “Dick” like “The Dick” -Nuff said

  18. ted

    February 28, 2007 at 4:59 am

    November 24, 2003 http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/11/20031124-6.html — ”Working with a fine coalition, our military went to Afghanistan, destroyed the training camps of al Qaeda, and put the Taliban out of business forever.” (Applause.)

  19. Bryan R.

    February 28, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Thank God he wasn’t hurt. Although it seems everyone else does when he’s around. I want him alive to face justice here on earth. Oh, I how I dream of his shit-eating smirk wiped from his face when he receives his sentence. Only then should the devil take him. Thank you, thank you and thank you.

  20. CharlieB

    February 28, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Oh Jesus; I meant Afghan security forces. Much embarassment. Apologies.

  21. CharlieB

    February 28, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    And who says ‘Moslems’ these days? Are you Emily Dickenson? Do you think that India is full of ‘Hindoos’?

  22. Maxwell Smart

    February 27, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Missed him by that much!

  23. skyguy

    February 27, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    No, I’m not going to elaborate of what most of you are thinking, except to say “close only counts in horseshoes.”

    I would find it hard to believe that the Veep’s itinerary was so loosely guarded as to allow word to get out of his [impending or otherwise] presence, thereby affording some suicide bomber the quickly staged opportunity to ‘take a whack’ at the Veep. At this point what makes more sense to me is the Veep is merely ‘capitalizing on a coincidence’, with the resultant spin-off being some form of bragging rights at DC dinners about how close he came to meeting his Maker.

    And a little off-topic – next time you hear about this administration’s brazen antics, remember the joke about the man who jumped from the top of a 40-story building. As he was falling, he’d call out to those standing near their windows – “So far, so good.” You’re watching a desperate administration in free-fall.

  24. Ardie

    February 27, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    A better move would have been to hit Cheney in the face with a banana cream pie. Seeing the Vice Unitary Executive with pie on his face would have sent a clear message to the world that Muslims don’t take Cheney and the rest of his clowns as serious as they take themselves. At any rate, under Bush and Cheney, i.e., dumber and dumb, America died in 2003. Like the body of James Brown, it will take a while to bury it.

  25. Diane

    February 27, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    Seems like the taliban aren’t any better at getting cheney than we are at getting bin laden. what a shame!

  26. Diane

    February 27, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    Seems like the taliban aren’t any better at getting cheney than we are at getting bin laden.too bad.

  27. gene

    February 27, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Got to love this one. I bet he needed a change of underwear. Think of the celebration this nation would have had, hell think of the celebration I would have had………dam. Wonder how soon Cheney might consider returning to Afghanistan, probably NEVER!!!!! Bush will probably honor him as a war hero and give him the medal of something, certainly not honor.

  28. Brian

    February 27, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Nevertheless, at least 1 U.S. soldier was killed as well as innocent Afghans. I hope his visit was worth it!!!!!

  29. Electric Bill

    February 27, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    Cheney will no doubt snarl and sneer and put on some show of defiance, but this is man who had so many deferments during the Vietnam War, he nearly got carpal tunnel writing excuses. Cheney is a poser. I agree with Gene, I’ll bet he soiled his shorts from fear. Neither he nor Bush will ever get that close to combat again. If they stage some show in the Green Zone of Iraq, it will just put brave American soldiers in danger to protect their cowardly asses.

  30. JimZ

    February 27, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    What they did prove, is NOWHERE in Afghanistan is 100% safe. We’d best be gettin’ outta there since we already screwed the pooch. Unless Pakistan actually cracks down on the Taliban & al-Queda and stops playing both sides (where WE are the “fools”), it will just keep getting worse.

    What a waste of good men & money. We had a chance to do it right, but Bu$hCo wasn’t up to the task. THEN THE IDIOTS ATTACKED IRAQ, WHO WAS NEVER A THREAT TO US.