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German soldiers killed in fighting in northern Afghanistan

Three German soldiers were killed in heavy fighting in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz Friday, according to German military officials. Clashes broke out after a German supply convoy came under attack from insurgents.


AFP - Three German soldiers were killed in fighting with Taliban insurgents on Friday in northern Afghanistan, the German military said.

Five other German soldiers were reported to be badly wounded in the clash near Chahar Dara, southwest of Kunduz, military spokesman Lieutenant-colonel Joerg Langer said.

The deaths brought to at least 39 the German death toll in Afghanistan since Berlin sent troops to the country in 2002 in a move that remains unpopular with the German public, according to an AFP tally.

 The fighting which began early Friday continued into the evening, Langer said, adding that reinforcements had been called in.

Mohammad Omar, the provincial governor of Kunduz, told AFP that German troops had been on their way to Chahar Dara to supply their posts there.

"Along the road they found some roadside bombs planted by the Taliban. They were removing the bombs from the road when the Taliban attacked them. A fight erupted during which a Taliban commander called Mullah Habib was killed," he added.

A correspondent with the German weekly Der Spiegel said some 200 Taliban were waiting in ambush and attacked the German troops. A German armoured vehicle was blown up on a mine, he added.

 The area is notoriously dangerous and a German general, Bruno Kasdorf, said on March 18 that the NATO-run International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan was planning an offensive against the Taliban there this year.

Kasdorf, ISAF chief of staff, declined to give details in the remarks to the German ARD public radio, but said that it would be on a "similar" scale to the ongoing offensive in the southern province of Helmand involving 15,000 US, NATO and Afghan troops.

With some 4,500 troops, Germany has the third largest contingent in Afghanistan after the United States and Britain.

The German forces are to be increased by 850 in line with a parliamentary vote in February which extended the mandate of the mission by a year.

Friday's clash occurred as German Development Minister Dirk Niebel was at Faisabad in northern Afghanistan meeting representatives of humanitarian organisations.

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