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Rockets slam market as French general meets Afghans, 10 civilians killed

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-11-16

A rocket attack on a crowded marketplace in north-eastern Afghanistan on Monday killed 10 civilians and wounded 28 others as a French general attended a meeting of tribal elders nearby, French and Afghan officials say.

A senior French military official narrowly escaped a militant attack Monday at a crowded marketplace in north-eastern Afghanistan, where French troops were holding a meeting with local leaders. The attack however killed at least 10 Afghan civilians - including children - and injured about 30 others, according to Afghan and French officials.

Monday’s attack in the Tagab Valley in the Kapisa province about 30 miles north-east of Kabul occurred when General Marcel Druart, the commander of French troops in eastern Afghanistan, was holding a meeting with local officers and community elders.

In a phone interview with GRN correspondent in Kabul, Jerome Starkey, Taliban spokesman Zahibullah Mujahid said the attack was “directed against foreign forces”.

Witnesses said two rockets landed about 300 metres away from the site where Druart was holding a “shura” or traditional Afghan meeting of elders.

In an interview with reporters shortly after the attack, Druart said that despite the attack, the meeting continued undeterred.

“The shura did not stop and I think it was very important that it didn’t,” Druart told the Associated Press. “The Afghans stayed and the discussion continued despite the attack from the insurgents.”

Speaking to reporters in Paris, French spokesman Admiral Christophe Prazuck said French and US medics evacuated six of the wounded to military hospitals in Kabul, while armoured vehicles took others to the French base in Tagab.

Prazuck said that "three or four Afghans, including children" were killed outright, but that no French troops were hurt. Ten of the 30 wounded Afghans were in a serious condition, he added.

Shuras sometimes leave foreign forces vulnerable to attacks

The attack came as the French parliament is set to debate the country’s involvement in the NATO-led military mission in Afghanistan amid mounting domestic opposition to the war in Afghanistan.

In recent times, NATO troops in Afghanistan have been organising shuras across the country in an attempt to win over local support in areas particularly hit by the insurgency.

“It’s the sort of meeting that international troops use to express their intentions to the Afghan people and also to learn from the community what they want and what they expect from the international forces,” said Starkey.

But, according to Starkey, such shuras often leave international troops vulnerable to Taliban attacks. “The soldiers are forced to send out invitations very publicly stating the time and place and where they’ll meet with tribal elders and Afghan officials.”

France has the fourth largest contingent in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) with more than 3,700 personnel assigned to the mission, of which 3,400 are based in Afghanistan.

Date created : 2009-11-16