An Afghan drove a stolen vehicle onto the runway ramp at a military base in southern Afghanistan Wednesday just as U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta flew in for a visit, NATO and U.S. officials said.
"At no point was the secretary or anyone on the aircraft in any danger from this incident," the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement, adding that "the alleged perpetrator" had been detained.
Around the time Panetta's plane was landing, an Afghan drove the stolen vehicle onto a runway ramp and crashed into a ditch before emerging from the vehicle "ablaze", Panetta's spokesman George Little told reporters in Kabul.
"He did end up on the runway ramp and ended up in a ditch," Little said. "Our personnel discovered he was ablaze."
The flames were extinguished and the Afghan was being treated for serious burn injuries, he said.
As coalition forces gave chase, the vehicle had struck and injured an ISAF service member, Little said.
It was not clear whether the incident at Camp Bastion was connected to Panetta's visit, he said.
A Pentagon spokesman in Washington said a small pick-up truck was driven at high speed "across the ramp near where (Panetta) was to pull up."
"No explosive was found on the individual or in the vehicle and no weapons," he said.
"I have no indication right now that leads to prove this was an intentional attack," he said.
Panetta flew to Afghanistan just days after a U.S. soldier shot dead 16 villagers -- most of them women and children -- in southern Kandahar province in the worst single such incident since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
He held talks with provincial leaders and also addressed U.S., NATO and Afghan troops at Camp Leatherneck adjoining Britain's Camp Bastion, before flying to Kabul where he is due to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai Thursday.
|Copyright © 2012 Naharnet.com. All Rights Reserved.||http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/33385|