Two killed in Afghan blast

A suicide car bomber has killed two Afghan civilians and wounded 14 others near the main US military base in southern Afghanistan.

The attack took place after the visiting US defence secretary had left the facility, Afghan and American officials said.

Afghan defence ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said the attacker targeted another vehicle that was driving near the gate that provides access to the military side of the city’s airport. He said all 14 wounded were civilians but had no other details.

Taliban spokesman Qari Jusuf Ahmedi claimed responsibility for the attack in an email, saying a suicide car bomber had targeted foreign military vehicles that had stopped near the gate of Kandahar Airfield.

It was unclear if the attack had anything to do with Leon Panetta’s unannounced visit to Kandahar Airfield. Kandahar is a huge and sprawling facility that houses more than 20,000 service members from 20 countries and has more than 11,000 civilian contract workers.

Afghan officials had earlier said that three Nato troops were among the 14 wounded. The US-led Nato coalition, or ISAF, said it could not immediately comment on any casualties.

The attack occurred after Mr Panetta had left Kandahar Airfield, his press secretary said. Mr Panetta is on a visit to Afghanistan and was to meet later in Kabul with President Hamid Karzai.

Mr Panetta was at Kandahar Airfield for about three hours, receiving an update briefing on the region from US Army Major General Robert Abrams, the region’s top coalition commander. Mr Panetta also spoke to about 350 US troops and took a few questions from them before flying back to Kabul.

A US official said early indications were that the attacker did not breach the base’s perimeter.

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