Spokesman Says Fire at Camp Bastion was ‘No Danger’ to Secretary
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
CAMP EGGERS, Afghanistan, March 14, 2012 A fire at Bastion Airfield earlier today appears to be unrelated to the fact that Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta was supposed to land there, Pentagon and NATO International Security Assistance Force officials said.
While some published reports call the fire an “attempted suicide bombing,” no explosives were found either in a stolen vehicle or on the driver, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters traveling with the secretary.
While defense officials always take such incidents seriously, Little said, “At no time was the secretary or the secretary’s delegation in danger.”
In Washington this afternoon, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby told reporters that an Afghan civilian approached a small pickup truck, pulled a coalition service member from the vehicle, then drove away, possibly striking the service member in the process.
The Afghan civilian then drove the truck “at a high rate of speed across the [airport] ramp” near where Panetta’s C-17 was to be parked, Kirby added.
Eventually, Little said, the stolen vehicle ended up in a ditch near the runway. The driver then left the vehicle and in an undetermined way caught fire, he added.
The secretary’s plane was diverted to another runway, Little said, but whether that was before or after the plane landed, or before or after the secretary’s party left the plane, was not clear.
The driver of the stolen vehicle was apprehended and is receiving treatment for burns, Little said. Details of the alleged theft, the suspect and the condition of the coalition service member who was injured are still developing, he said.
An ISAF release said base security personnel apprehended the alleged perpetrator.
“We are currently investigating to determine more facts,” the release stated.
(Cheryl Pellerin contributed reporting from Washington.)