Blasts Rock Afghanistan as Hagel Visits

Nearly 20 people killed after defense chief arrives
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 9, 2013 5:33 AM CST
Blasts Rock Afghanistan as Hagel Visits
Defense chief Chuck Hagel, center, walks with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham, left, upon arrival in Kabul.   (AP Photo/Jason Reed, Pool)

A suicide bomber on a bicycle struck outside the Afghan Defense Ministry in Kabul today, one of two attacks that killed at least 18 people as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited the nation. Nine people were killed in the bombing at the ministry, a fresh reminder that insurgents continue to fight as the US-led NATO force prepares to hand over the country's security to the Afghans. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was meant to send a signal to the US defense chief.

About a half hour later, another suicide bomber attacked a police checkpoint in Khost, killing an Afghan policeman and eight civilians, mostly children. "We are still at war," Hagel said shortly before he arrived yesterday, the same day that three men wearing Afghan army uniforms and driving an Afghan army vehicle forced their way onto a US base in eastern Afghanistan and opened fire, killing one American contractor and wounding US troops. All three attackers were killed. (Read more Afghanistan war stories.)

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