French soldier, Afghan killed in Tailban attack

12th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Taliban militants set off explosives and opened fire on the troops in south of Kabul, leaving one French soldier dead and another seriously wounded.

KABUL – A French soldier and an Afghan interpreter were killed Wednesday when Taliban militants set off explosives near a convoy and then opened fire on the troops, the French military said Wednesday.

Another French soldier was seriously wounded in the attack in Logar province south of the capital Kabul, French military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jerome Salle told AFP.

"Around 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of Kabul a vehicle was blown up, probably by an IED (improvised explosive device)," he said.

"Afterwards the patrol was shot at by some insurgents. A French soldier has been killed and another was seriously wounded. An Afghan interpreter has also been killed."

The insurgent Taliban movement claimed responsibility for the attack, which came as gunmen from the same militia stormed three government buildings in the capital Kabul, leaving 26 people dead and 55 people wounded.

A spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told an AFP reporter by telephone that Taliban fighters had attacked the French troops in two different areas of the province.

"Eight French soldiers were killed and wounded," he said. The Taliban are known to exaggerate the number of casualties caused by their attacks.

The French troops were working as part of a mentor and liaison team that is advising the growing Afghan security forces, Salle said.

About half a dozen French troops were travelling with about 30 Afghan soldiers when they were attacked, a French officer said in Paris.

Logar police chief Mostafa Muhsini said the device was detonated from behind a wall in order to strike the patrol. He gave the same casualty toll.

President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his sorrow at the deaths, condemned the attack and, in a statement, reiterated "France's determination to continue to work for the return of peace to Afghanistan."

There are about 2,800 French soldiers in Afghanistan as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that is helping to fight a Taliban-led insurgency and build up Afghanistan's own forces.

About 300 of them are involved in training Afghan army soldiers.

The latest death brings to 25 the number of French troops killed in Afghanistan since the contingent first deployed in early 2002.

French troops also came under attack in the capital 10 days ago when a suicide bomber blew up an explosives-filled vehicle near a passing convoy.

One soldier was slightly wounded, the military said.

The extremist Taliban also claimed responsibility for that attack.

Logar has seen an increase in insurgent activity in recent months. Around 3,000 US troops have recently moved into the province and the adjoining Wardak area.

The French contribution to ISAF is the fourth largest after those from the United States, Britain and Canada.

It suffered the largest single loss of life in battle among the 40 or so ISAF nations serving here when 10 paratroopers were killed after being ambushed by insurgents in August last year.

Wednesday's attack takes to 29 the number of international soldiers to lose their lives this year, most of them in attacks, according to the website that tracks casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There are nearly 70,000 international troops in Afghanistan under the command of ISAF and a separate US-led coalition.

[AFP / Expatica]

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