'Car bomb attack' on US Defence Secretary in Afghanistan
THE US Defence Secretary was the apparent target of a suicide bomber as he flew into Afghanistan for a surprise visit.
A vehicle has driven onto the runway of Britain's main base in southern Afghanistan and burst into flames as a plane carrying Leon Panetta landed there.
Sky News said the incident at Camp Bastion in southern Helmand province was a suspected suicide car bomb attack, but the source said it was not immediately clear if that was the case.
"As he was landing a vehicle was driven onto the runway and was set on fire. The driver was badly burned," the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The driver was a local man employed at the base.
A British soldier suffered injuries in an earlier incident, which may have been linked to the same vehicle, Britain's Press Association news agency reported.
Flights from Camp Bastion were restricted while it was investigated, but the restrictions were lifted later.
Mr Panetta flew to Afghanistan just days after a soldier shot dead 16 villagers - most of them women and children - in Kandahar in the worst single such incident since the 2001 US-led invasion.
He held talks with provincial leaders and also addressed US, NATO and Afghan troops at Camp Leatherneck, a US camp in the Helmand desert which adjoins Britain's Camp Bastion.
In his remarks to troops, Mr Panetta described last month's Koran burning incident, Sunday's shootings by the US soldier and attacks on coalition troops by Afghan soldiers as "deeply troubling," but he insisted it would not be allowed to undo NATO and Afghan progress against the Taliban.
"We will not allow individual incidents to undermine our resolve," Mr Panetta added. "We will be tested, we will be challenged by the enemy ... by ourselves and by the hell of war."
In Washington, US President Barack Obama echoed his remarks, saying there were no plans for "sudden" changes to a scheduled timetable for troop withdrawal.
Mr Obama said the United States would stick with the timing agreed with NATO partners, in which Afghan forces take over security for the whole country by the end of 2014, AFP reported.
"I don't anticipate at this stage that we're going to be making any sudden additional changes to the plan that we currently have," Obama told a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron.