KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden car near a NATO base in southern Afghanistan on Thursday soon after a visit by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, killing two people and wounding 16, Afghan and NATO officials said.

His spokesman said there was no indication Panetta was the target. Panetta had visited Kandahar Air Base just hours before the attack, meeting US troops before the Christmas holiday.

"The attack occurred after the Secretary returned to Kabul," spokesman George Little said.

Three foreign soldiers were among the wounded.

Panetta was due to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai later on Thursday as the United States weighs how big a fighting force to keep in the country after the NATO mission ends in 2014.

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