Latest update: 13/07/2011
Five French soldiers killed in eastern Afghanistan
Five French soldiers and an Afghan civilian have been killed in a suicide bombing in eastern Afghanistan, French officials say. The news comes a day after France said it would withdraw a quarter of its troops stationed there by the end of 2012.
AP - Five French soldiers and one Afghan civilian were killed and another four soldiers and three Afghans were seriously injured in a bomb blast Wednesday in eastern Afghanistan - the most deadly attack on French troops in the country since 2008.
The attack targeted French soldiers guarding a meeting of local leaders in the village of Joybar, in the Kapisa province, French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office said in a statement.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon, speaking in the lower house of parliament, specified the attack appeared to be a suicide bombing.
It came a day after Sarkozy’s surprise visit to the country, where he met with French troops and held a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Speaking in Kabul, Sarkozy gave more details on the drawdown of French combat troops in Afghanistan, where some 4,000 are currently taking part in NATO-led operations in the country. He said some 1,000 troops will be brought home by the end of next year, with a full withdrawal of the country’s combat forces there during 2014.
“We must know how to end a war,” Sarkozy said in Tuesday’s address, adding the French pullout would be “tied to the evolution of the situation on the ground” and be planned “in conjunction with Afghan authorities as well as with our allies.”
Wednesday’s attack brings to 69 the number of French soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2001. The most serious incident happened in 2008, when 10 French soldiers were killed and 21 wounded in a Taliban ambush in the Uzbin Valley.
Emmanuel Maurin, commander of French troops in the Kapisa and Surobi provinces, warned as late as Tuesday that insurgents were looking for any chance to target French troops.
“The insurrection is mobile, aggressive and intelligent. It’s looking for opportunities to hit French forces,” Maurin said during Sarkozy’s visit.
Lawmakers in the National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament, held a minute of silence in memory of the fallen soldiers.