8 killed, scores injured in suicide blast in Kabul during Hagel visit

KABUL: At least eight people were dead and several others were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the gates of Afghan’s Defense Ministry in central Kabul during a visit by new US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, officials said. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility.

The assailant was on a bicycle as he triggered the blast near 9am local time (04:30 GMT), Afghan police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai was quoted as saying.

“A suicide attacker has detonated himself within 30 metres (100 feet) of the defence ministry gate, there have been casualties among civilians, but defence ministry personnel have not suffered any casualties,” Zahir Azimi said.

Gunfire broke out after the loud explosion was heard across the city, and reporters travelling with Hagel were informed that he was taken to a safe area as security forces cordon off streets around the blast.

“We can confirm a suicide improvised explosive device attack, followed by small arms fire, near the Afghan ministry of defence compound in central Kabul this morning,” a statement sent from the NATO-led military coalition said. “No ISAF troops were directly involved.”