Cheney Targeted in Assassination Attempt

A suicide bomber struck at the main entrance to Bagram air base in Afghanistan today, as Vice President Dick Cheney was visiting.

Immediately after the attack, a red alert traveled throughout the base -- a red alert that we heard saying that the base was under direct attack.

At least nine people were killed, officials tell ABC News. Associated Press reporters at the scene said that they had seen the bodies of at least 12 people, and that they had been carried in black body bags and wooden coffins from near the base into a market area where hundreds of Afghans had gathered to mourn.

A Taliban spokesperson has claimed responsibility, saying the intended target was in fact Cheney. The bomber never got near Cheney.

Maj. William Mitchell said it did not appear the explosion was intended as a threat to the vice president. "He wasn't near the site of the explosion," Mitchell said. "He was safely within the base at the time of the explosion."

However, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a purported Taliban spokesman, said Cheney was the target of the attack.

"We knew that Dick Cheney would be staying inside the base," Ahmadi told AP telephone from an undisclosed location. "The attacker was trying to reach Cheney."

Cheney left as scheduled, flying out of Bagram down to Kabul for his meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and was greeted by a full honor ceremony. Cheney is here for a meeting about the spring offensive against the Taliban.

Although Cheney was apparently never in any danger at any time on a trip that had been marked by such intense secrecy and high security, this is clearly an unwelcome surprise.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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