Attack on US defence chief at British base
Panetta survives 'car bomb' on secret visit to Afghanistan
A stolen car, suspected to be carrying an incendiary device, burst into flames within 75 metres of the US Defence Secretary last night as he was walking across the runway at the main British base in Afghanistan. The driver, who was set alight, was arrested at gunpoint while Leon Panetta was bundled away by his bodyguards.
The extraordinary and highly embarrassing lapse of security at Camp Bastion, in Helmand, overshadowed David Cameron's press conference with Barack Obama in the Rose Garden of the White House. The Prime Minister and the President were immediately questioned by the media about the incident. Both men said they had no further details.
The International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Kabul said: "We are aware of a stolen vehicle incident today at Camp Bastion, which injured one coalition service member. The alleged perpetrator was apprehended by base security personnel. We are currently investigating to determine more facts."
It is believed the driver was an Afghan working at the vast complex, which contains Bastion and the adjoining American base, Camp Leatherneck. Last night he was receiving medical treatment for severe burns. A British serviceman suffered minor injuries when he attempted to stop the four-wheel-drive vehicle from being seized, just before it was driven on to the runway.
The arrival of Mr Panetta was, in line with all VIP visits to frontline provinces, meant to be a secret. Yet, the attack was launched moments after the Defence Secretary had landed. The vehicle sped through a security cordon, dodging gaps in concrete barriers, before crashing into a ditch, where it burst into flames.
Several thousand Afghans as well as a number of other nationalities work at Bastion and Leatherneck. There is also an Afghan camp, Shorabak, although there was no immediate suggestion that the arrested man was a member of the Afghan security forces.
Following the incident, the base went into lockdown, with security precautions described by a number of US Marines as "bizarre". US forces waiting in a tent to hear Mr Panetta deliver a morale-boosting talk were suddenly told to deposit all their weapons, including sidearms, outside. Sgt-Major Brandon Hall, said: "All I know is that I was told to get the weapons out. Somebody got itchy, that's all I've got to say."
Mr Panetta's visit follows the murders of 16 civilians, mostly women and children, in Kandahar by a US staff sergeant, which led to an outpouring of fierce anger and dismay among the Afghan population.
Earlier, 30 people, including six American service personnel, were killed after US officials burned copies of the Koran. Last week six British soldiers died in a roadside bombing.
To show that the weekend massacre was the work of only one person, the US military has released footage of the 38-year-old staff sergeant, who has not been named, returning to the base and surrendering his weapon. He has been flown out of the country.
- 1 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 2 Charles Kennedy dead: Former Lib Dem leader dies at home aged 55 - latest news
- 3 Ayyan Ali: Pakistan's top model now appears in the courtroom rather than on the catwalk
- 4 Fifa corruption: Europe plots to stage an 'alternative World Cup' in place of Russia 2018
- 5 Jaden Smith wears gender fluid dress to high school prom with Hunger Games actress
Photographer who performed naked shoot in China's Forbidden City sparks outrage
Ed Miliband returns to the backbenches but it's all a bit awkward as he tries to avoid eye-contact with fellow Labour MPs
Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
Charles Kennedy dead: Former Lib Dem leader dies at home aged 55 - latest news
Isis tortures 14-year-old Syrian boy and films it in graphic video for 'propaganda purposes'
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history
£100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...
£17100 - £22900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...
£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established manufactu...