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Three German soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Published on 24/06/2009

Berlin -- Three German soldiers were killed in Afghanistan Tuesday when their patrol near the northern city of Kunduz came under fire, the German defence minister said.

"Three soldiers fell in Afghanistan in their mission for peace," Franz Josef Jung said in a statement.

The soldiers were conducting a joint operation with Afghan forces when they came under attack at about midday (0730 GMT) from handguns and anti-tank fire, the statement said. The radical insurgent Taliban in Afghanistan claimed responsibility.

The men fired back and requested air support and reinforcements, the defence ministry said, adding that the operation was ongoing.

The German base in Kunduz is a frequent target of attacks by insurgents.

Germany has some 3,700 troops serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), stationed in the relatively calm north of the country.

But the security situation in the north has deteriorated, prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government in 2008 to boost the number of German troops to up to 4,400 ahead of Afghanistan’s presidential elections in August.

Since 2002, 35 German troops have died in Afghanistan.

The mission is highly unpopular in Germany and is set to be an issue in the campaign for general elections on September 27.

The killings came as US national security adviser James Jones visited to assess a new plan to fight militants.