With Hagel In Afghanistan, Explosion Hits Near Defense Ministry

A bomb exploded near the Defense Ministry in Kabul Saturday morning as U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is in Afghanistan, NPR’s David Welna reports. There were also reports of arms fire in the area.

Hagel was in a briefing at the time of the attack, away from the ministry building, Welna says. Hagel arrived Friday on his first visit to the country as defense chief, and he has been scheduled to meet with his Afghan counterpart Sunday.

In a separate briefing about 1 kilometer away from the blast, the tiles on the ceiling rattled, and reporters were evacuated to a secure location, Welna tells our Newscast Desk.

The Associated Press has this report on the motive for the bombing:

“The Taliban claimed responsibility for the morning attack at the ministry, saying it was meant to send a signal to the U.S. defense chief. ‘This attack was a message to him,’ Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in an email to reporters.”

The Washington Post, citing Kabul’s deputy police commander, says nine people were killed.

After the attack, Post reporter Ernesto Londono tweeted that the day would continue as planned for Pentagon press corps traveling with Hagel.

The AP reports there was a second attack Saturday at a police checkpoint in Khost in eastern Afghanistan.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.