Camp Bastion runway blaze driver dies

 

An Afghan man who crashed a stolen vehicle on to the runway at Camp Bastion as US defence secretary Leon Panetta arrived there has died of his injuries.

The man died this morning of severe burns, said Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparotti, deputy commander of American forces in Afghanistan.

He said the driver apparently had a container of fuel in the vehicle, which ignited during yesterday's crash at the airfield at Britain's biggest base in Afghanistan.

The base is home to a large contingent of US troops as well as UK forces.

Lt Gen Scaparotti said the driver had been heading towards a group of marines. He travelled at high speed and crashed into a ditch near the ramp where Mr Panetta's plane was going to park.

No one in the defence secretary's party was hurt.

The drama came amid growing tension between coalition forces and Afghan locals after the massacre of 16 people, including several children, allegedly by a US soldier in Kandahar at the weekend.

The soldier was moved out of the country to Kuwait yesterday, because the US says it does not have appropriate detention facilities in Afghanistan.

Yesterday's crash at Camp Bastion is believed to be linked to an earlier incident, which left a British serviceman with minor injuries.

The driver, a local man employed at the base, was treated at the base's hospital for his injuries but died this morning.

In a statement yesterday, Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said: "We are currently investigating to determine more facts.

"At no point was the secretary or anyone on the aircraft in any danger from this incident."

Camp Bastion was put under "lockdown" in the aftermath of the incident, with flights and movements in and out restricted while it was investigated, and Ministry of Defence police patrolled roads inside the base.

Yesterday was the latest of several incidents including the weekend's killings. Last month there was anger after US troops burned Korans on an American base.

But Mr Panetta told 200 marines and Afghan soldiers at Camp Leatherneck, the US base adjoining Camp Bastion, yesterday: "As tragic as these events of violence have been, they do not define the relationship between the coalition and the Afghan forces and the Afghan people.

"What you are doing out here every day determines that relationship."

He said the resolve of coalition forces would not be undermined, adding: "We will be challenged.

"We will be challenged by our enemy. We will be challenged by ourselves. We will be challenged by the hell of war itself.

"But none of that must ever deter us from the mission that we must achieve. That mission is the dream that I talk about. The dream of making sure that we can provide our children - that we can provide children of Afghans - a better life for the future."

Mr Panetta's two-day visit is scheduled to include meetings with Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Afghan defence officials and provincial leaders, as well as routine discussions with his commanders on the ground.

PA

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