Storm and accident claim four French soldiers in Afghanistan

28th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

Three French soldiers were killed in a lightning storm during a night time operation targeting Taliban bomb squads in a valley east of Kabul, the French military said Sunday.

One man was killed by lightning and two others drowned, said Admiral Christophe Prazuck, spokesman for the French armed forces, taking the French military death toll in Afghanistan to 34.

In a separate incident, a soldier with the French Foreign Legion was killed when an armoured vehicle in which he was travelling fell into a ravine on Sunday, the French military said.

Five other legionnaires were injured in the accident, in the Surobi district, which came as they were returning from Kabul to their forward operating base at Tora.

France has now lost 35 soldiers in Afghanistan, where it has 2,900 troops in the NATO-led coalition battling Taliban guerrillas and training Afghanistan's national security forces.

The three soldiers killed in the lightning storm were part of a 250-troop operation hunting fighters responsible for planting roadside bombs in Kapisa Province east of Kabul, Prazuck said.

The joint French and Afghan operation, taking place by night in the Afghanya Valley about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Kabul, was suspended after a first soldier was struck dead by lightning, according to Prazuck.

Another soldier was swept off a footpath by a flooding river while medics attended to the lighting victim, and a third was carried off as he tried to rescue his comrade.

"The pair were found drowned at dawn," Prazuck said.

All three were stationed at the Nijrab forward operating base in Kapisa Province, where their bodies were evacuated by helicopter, said a French military spokesman in Kabul.

Paris recalled most of its special forces from Afghanistan in 2006, but around 60 personnel remain stationed in the country on commando training and intelligence missions, Prazuck said.

This year has been the deadliest for the 100,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan since US-led forces ousted the Taliban from Kabul following the 11 September attacks in the United States in 2001.


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