The town of Castres, in southwestern France, paid tribute Friday to the 10 soldiers killed in an ambush in Afghanistan on Tuesday, members of a parachutist regiment based in the town.
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<font size="2" face="Arial"><span style="font-weight: bold; font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">16/11/07: Taliban-istan - two sides, one war<o:p></o:p></span></font>
Castres residents paid their last respects Friday to eight of 10 French soldiers killed in an ambush in Afghanistan whose regiment is based in this southwestern French town.
Roughly a thousand people packed Saint Benedict cathedral, as the coffin of warrant officer Sebastien Devez -- the only local resident among the dead soldiers -- was borne in silence by fellow soldiers from his parachutist regiment.
Photos of the other seven soldiers were placed around the coffin.
Those attending the ceremony included Devez' family and widow, who sat in tears with his daughter on her knee.
Hundreds of people gathered in the square outside to watch the event on a giant screen. The town's shops closed their blinds during the ceremony and public offices were shuttered in tribute to the dead soldiers.
The event offered one poignant closure to the killings, even as debate raged about their deaths this week -- France's worst military loss in 25 years -- and the country's role in Afghanistan.
Monday's incident left another 21 French soldiers wounded.
"We cannot be accomplices to evil, death and war," said Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carre who presided over the service. "We must today show compassion, friendship -- today, tomorrow, always."
In an interview to be published Sunday, a senior aide to President Nicolas Sarkozy said most of the assailants that killed the soldiers were not Afghans, but rather Islamists from elsewhere.
"Now that the situation has changed in Iraq, they are going to a new front and that's Afghanistan," chief of staff Claude Gueant told Paris/Aujourd'hui en France newspaper.
Polls show a large majority of French opposed Sarkozy's decision earlier this year to send 700 additional troops to Afghanistan, with many fearing the country is getting bogged down in an unending war.
The French leader, who presided over a Paris ceremony to honour the dead on Thursday, has rejected any idea of withdrawing.
Date created : 2008-08-24