(KANDAHAR, Afghanistan) — A suicide bomber struck Thursday outside an air base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, just hours after U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had left the area, Afghan officials said.
“Insurgents detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device” and Coalition Forces are on the scene assessing the situation and collecting facts, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little confirmed in a written statement.
One NATO soldier and two Afghan soldiers were killed, according to the provincial governor of Kandahar. Eleven Afghan civilians were also wounded.
Little provided no information on whether the attack was associated with Panetta’s visit.
The incident, which took place just outside the main gate of Kandahar Air Field, happened after Panetta, on a surprise visit to Afghanistan, had been at the base for a series of meetings with U.S. military officials. He had already left the base when the attack occurred.
Kandahar Air Field, or KAF, is the biggest U.S. military installation in Southern Afghanistan, a key Taliban stronghold. The gate is the main access point to the military airfield.
The suicide attacker drove a Toyota SUV up to the base before it exploded, according to Saeed Azeem Hassani, director of the Afghan National Army hospital at the air base.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Greg Botelho and Euan McKirdy, CNN
Barbara Starr, Tom LoBianco, Holly Yan and Jim Sciutto, CNN Newswire