Driving a stolen vehicle, an Afghan rammed through the fence and onto a runway ramp trying to reach Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The attack occurred as Panetta’s plane was arriving in Afghanistan at the British base adjoining Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province according to a report in the Washington Post.
Panetta was unharmed and carried on with his visit as planned, U.S. officials said.
The incident occurred as Panetta’s plane was arriving at Camp Bastion, a British base adjoining Camp Leatherneck, a major U.S. Marine base in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. The Afghan man caught on fire by means that remain unclear, but his vehicle did not explode, and he was apprehended by security forces, officials said. A coalition service member was injured in the incident.
The New York Times is reporting that Panetta was never in danger, however, there were noted signs of nervousness during the Defense Secretary’s visit.
… Marines and other troops among the 200 people gathered in a tent at Camp Leatherneck to hear Mr. Panetta speak were abruptly asked by their commander to get up, place their weapons — M-16 and M-4 automatic rifles and 9-mm pistols — outside the tent and then return unarmed. The commander, Sgt. Maj. Brandon Hall, told reporters he was acting on orders from superiors.
“All I know is, I was told to get the weapons out,” he said. Asked why, he replied, “Somebody got itchy, that’s all I’ve got to say. Somebody got itchy; we just adjust.”
Typically, Afghan soldiers are not armed but U.S. troops keep their weapons when the Secretary of Defense visits. But the top commander in Helmand decided that no one would be armed when Panetta spoke to them. However, that decision apparently didn’t reach the Marines before they entered the tent.