Chuck Hagel's first visit to Afghanistan as Defense Secretary got off to a scary start as two separate suicide bomb attacks greeted him. One targeted Afghanistan's Defense Ministry, but, thankfully, Hagel was nowhere near the building at the time. The attack at the Ministry killed nine people and left the cars and walls near the heavily guarded facility's front gate damaged from the explosion. Hagel was less than a mile away, at a secure U.S. facility, at the time of the attack. Reporters in Afghanistan to cover Hagel were put on lockdown while gathered at a different building within walking distance of the blast when it happened. The second suicide bombing killed eight in Khost, a provincial capital in eastern Afghanistan, including an Afghan policeman and civilian children.
The Taliban quickly claimed credit for the attacks. "This attack was a message to him," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in an email sent to reporters. "This was not a direct attack to target him (Hagel) but we want to send a message that we are always capable of hitting Kabul even when the top US defence official is there," Mujahid told AFP.
Hagel was in a meeting when the explosions happened. He said he could hear the explosion at the time, but brushed off the news of the bombing when discussing it with reporters Saturday morning. "We're in a war zone. I've been in war, so shouldn't be surprised when a bomb goes off or there's an explosion," the Vietnam War veteran Hagel said.
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