Afghanistan: 4 dead in blast at Bagram Airfield

Posted at 9:16 AM, Nov 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-12 09:16:36-05

An attack killed four people and injured more than a dozen others Saturday when an explosive device was detonated at Bagram Airfield, the largest US military base in Afghanistan, the NATO mission there said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility in a tweet praising the “strong attack” on Bagram Airfield.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said a suicide bomber had targeted “a sports ground where more than 100 military officers, important people and soldiers were busy exercising.”

The attack on the airfield had been planned for four months, he said.

A US official confirmed an enemy device caused the explosion.

“To the family and friends of those who lost their lives today, we share your loss and our thoughts are with you. We offer you our deepest condolences,” said US Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, head of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan.

“For the family and friends of those wounded in today’s attack, let me assure you they are receiving the best care possible, and we will keep them in our thoughts today.”

NATO said 14 people were injured in the blast, which happened shortly after 5:30 a.m. local time. Its force protection and medical teams responded.

Haji Shokoor, the district governor of Bagram, told CNN that “the people killed in the blast were foreign citizens, but we don’t know their nationalities.” Shokoor said the injured are all Afghan nationals.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg offered his support on Twitter to those affected by the attack and said the alliance stood with Afghanistan in the fight against terror.

The airfield is next to the ancient city of Bagram, southeast of Charikar in Parwan province. Bagram is more than 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Kabul, the Afghan capital.

Questions over security

The base is under the equivalent of lockdown after the attack as urgent investigations are carried out, according to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

It’s not yet clear to officials if a suicide bomber is reponsible, she said. The military will want to ensure that anyone tied to the blast is found before people are allowed to leave the base.

Officials said they are working to treat the wounded, Starr said, and security has been greatly tightened.

“The question now is, how did someone get inside?” she said. “There’s very strict security at these bases. … If you come in a vehicle, you are stopped well before the outside gate. Vehicles are searched, people are searched, people must have ID — so it’s very difficult to understand right now how this happened.”

There are about 14,000 people on the Bagram base, with about 60% contractors, according to Starr. Locals move on and off the base in some contractor roles, she said.

Security breaches at international military bases in Afghanistan are rare, she added.

Recent violence

Saturday’s blast follows a spate of recent attacks.

A suicide car bomb targeted the German Consulate in Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province on Thursday, according to local police and officials.

Monir Ahmad Farhad, a provincial spokesman, said four people were killed and more 100 people were injured in the attack in Mazar-e-Sharif, the provincial capital. No German diplomats were hurt. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Last week, a joint Afghan-US battle against the Taliban in the northern district of Kunduz killed 30 civilians as well as two US soldiers and 26 militants.

Those deaths happened the same day Taliban mortars killed at least seven people at a wedding party in Faryab province in northern Afghanistan, police spokesman Kareem Youresh said. At least 13 people were wounded.

An Australian woman was kidnapped November 5 by unknown gunmen in Kabul, Afghan police said.