CAIRO, Egypt – A top Taliban commander said al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was behind the February attack outside the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan, during the visit there by Vice President Dick Cheney, according to an interview shown Wednesday by Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera.
Bin Laden planned and supervised the attack that killed 23 people outside the base during Cheney’s visit, said Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban’s main military commander in southern Afghanistan who has had close associations with al-Qaida.
“You may remember the martyr operation inside the Bagram base, which targeted a senior U.S. official. … That operation was the result of his wise planning. He (bin Laden) planned that operation and guided us through it. The operation was a success,” Dadullah told Al-Jazeera.
He did not say how he knew that bin Laden planned the attack, and it was not immediately clear when the interview took place.
Deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino said it was “an interesting claim but … I haven’t seen any intelligence that would support that.”
The bombing killed about 20 Afghan civilians, a U.S. soldier, a U.S. contractor and a South Korean soldier outside Bagram while Cheney was meeting with officials inside the base – an attack the Taliban claimed was aimed at Cheney but which officials said posed no real threat to him.
The attacker never tried to penetrate even the first of several U.S.-manned security checkpoints at Bagram, instead detonating himself among a group of Afghan workers outside the base.
Dadullah also insisted bin Laden was alive and well, according to the interview.
“Thank God he is alive. We get updated information about him. Thank God he planned operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” Dadullah told Al-Jazeera in excerpts that were translated into Arabic.
The bearded Dadullah, wearing a black turban and a gray traditional Afghani robe, was interviewed by Al-Jazeera’s correspondent in Afghanistan. In the interview, the Taliban commander was seen sitting on the ground in the middle of a field with some trees.