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Panetta says Afghan suicide bomber kills American soldier, 2 civilians

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says a suicide car bomber that attacked the Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan killed an American soldier, two Afghan civilians and wounded three others.

Taliban spokesman Qari Jusuf Ahmedi claimed responsibility for the attack in an email, saying a suicide car bomber had targeted foreign military vehicles that were stopped near the gate of Kandahar Airfield.

 It was unclear if the attack had anything to do with Panetta's unannounced visit to Kandahar Airfield. Kandahar is a huge and sprawling facility that houses more than 20,000 service members from 20 countries and has more than 11,000 civilian contract workers.

Javeed Faisal, who is a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the attack took place just after nightfall Thursday.

Suicide attacks are not uncommon in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban.

Panetta also said Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accepted an invitation from President Barack Obama to meet in Washington.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Karzai, he said the meeting is to be held during the week of Jan. 7.

The two leaders will use the meeting to discuss Afghanistan's future. Karzai said he and Obama will discuss the number of U.S. troops that will remain in Afghanistan after the combat mission ends there in December 2014.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.