'I Heard a Loud Boom' -- Cheney Discusses Assassination Attempt
Vice President Dick Cheney arrives at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. (Richard Coolidge)
By JONATHAN KARL
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Feb. 27, 2007 — A suicide bomber struck at the main entrance to the U.S. air base in Bagram, Afghanistan, today, as Vice President Dick Cheney was visiting.
"I heard a loud boom, and shortly after that the Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate, apparently a suicide bomber," Cheney said to a small group of reporters traveling with him.
At least 10 people were killed including a U.S. soldier. Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office told The Associated Press as many as 23 had been killed.
Immediately after the attack, a red alert sounded throughout the base — a red alert that said the base was under direct attack.
The Secret Service rushed Cheney to a bomb shelter on the air base.
"They moved me for a relatively brief period of time to one of the bomb shelters near the quarters I was staying in," Cheney said.
Cheney said he never considered altering his schedule because of the bombing. About an hour after the explosion, he was aboard an Air Force C-17, flying to Kabul as planned for a meeting with Karzai.
Cheney said he was aware that the Taliban had claimed responsibility for the attack.
"I think they clearly try to find ways to question the authority of the central government, and striking at Bagram with a suicide bomber is one way to do that," he said, adding that such attacks should "never affect our behavior at all."
Bad weather in Afghanistan had forced the vice president to spend the night in Bagram on Monday. He had only planned to be there for a few hours. The overnight stay in Afghanistan makes Cheney the most senior Bush administration official to spend the night in a war zone, a fact that complicated the already intense security surrounding this trip.
Maj. William Mitchell said Cheney was never in danger.
"He wasn't near the site of the explosion," Mitchell said. "He was safely within the base at the time of the explosion."