- Afghanistan - Taliban
Ten French soldiers were killed in clashes with the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan in France’s single biggest loss since French troops began their Afghan mission in 2001.
Speaking from the Afghan capital of Kabul Tuesday, FRANCE 24’s Claire Billet said ten French paratroopers were killed and 21 other French soldiers wounded in an incident in the Sarobi district of Kabul province, about 50 kilometres from the Afghan capital.
In a statement released Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the soldiers were killed "during a joint reconnaissance mission with the Afghan national army."
French soldiers are based in Afghanistan under NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
French Defence Minister Hervé Morin said the wounded French soldiers were in stable condition and that some would be flown back to Paris soon.
Sarkozy, accompanied by Morin, is due to arrive in Afghanistan early on Wednesday to show his support for the troops. Despite the loss, the French leader vowed to continue military missions in Afghanistan.
"My determination is intact,” said the presidential statement released Tuesday. “France is determined to continue the struggle against terrorism for democracy and freedom. The cause is just.”
In a phone interview with FRANCE 24, Zabihullah Mujahed, a purported Taliban spokesman, said a deadly ambush had taken place in Sarobi, in which mines were used.
The clashes began Monday night with an attack on an ISAF patrol in Sarobi, according to Afghan military officials.
“Combating insurgents in Afghanistan is becoming tougher by the day as the Taliban are deploying more formidable tactics than was the case before,” stated Morin.
According to an Afghan defence ministry spokesman, 13 rebels including a Pakistani national had also been killed in the clashes in Sarobi.
Deadliest incident for France since 1983
France took over ISAF’s regional command in the Kabul area on August 5 from Italy. Most of the 2,500 French troops in the 40-nation ISAF alliance are based in Kabul province. Before Tuesday’s incident, at least 13 French soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
Tuesday’s incident was the deadliest for the French army since a 1983 bombing in Lebanon, in which 58 French paratroopers were killed.
In Kapisa, a province northwest of Kabul, 700 French soldiers were deployed a month ago. Clashes between insurgents and French forces have since been “almost daily", reports Billet.
Sarobi, where the incident occurred, lies along the road that links Kabul to Kapisa.
The ambush in Sarobi came at the same time as an attempted suicide attack on a US base in eastern Afghanistan was thwarted, according to Afghan officials.