Car Bomb Kills U.S. Soldier as Panetta Visits Afghanistan

Insurgents carried out a car-bomb attack near the Kandahar airfield today that killed a U.S. soldier after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited the Afghan base.

Panetta told reporters in Kabul that one American soldier was killed and three were wounded. A bomber driving a car packed with heavy explosives “targeted a NATO convoy” in southern Kandahar province, killing an international soldier and three Afghan civilians and wounding 14 people, Jawid Faisal, a spokesman for the province, said in a phone interview.

The Taliban carried out the attack to send a message after learning Panetta was visiting the airfield to boost the morale of allied forces, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a spokesman for the group, said in an e-mailed statement. While Panetta wasn’t the target, the group showed that his soldiers are “always in danger,”he said.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said he had no information to suggest the attack was associated with Panetta’s visit to Afghanistan.

Panetta visited Kandahar today to meet with commanders of International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command South for about four hours. The attack took place after Panetta and his delegation left Kandahar at about 2:45 p.m. local time for Kabul, where the defense secretary met with President Hamid Karzai.

Panetta said Karzai accepted an invitation from President Barack Obama to visit Washington the week of Jan. 7. Panetta and Karzai discussed the future of U.S. and allied forces in the country after the planned withdrawal of most American troops by the end of 2014.

To contact the reporters on this story: Gopal Ratnam in Washington at; Eltaf Najafizada in Kabul at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at

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