Bodies of French troops land at Paris

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The plane carrying the bodies of 10 French soldiers killed in Afghanistan landed Wednesday night at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport.

21 August 2008

ROISSY - The plane carrying the bodies of 10 French soldiers killed in Afghanistan this week landed Wednesday at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris, an AFP correspondent said.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon was waiting as the French air force Airbus came to a halt at 11:15 pm (2115 GMT), with a military guard of honour circling the aircraft on the runway.

Ten hearses had arrived at the airport one hour earlier, with members of the dead soldiers' grieving families also at the airport alongside a large police presence.

Fillon paid his respects to the bodies in the airport's VIP lounge transformed into a temporary mortuary during a 10-minute ceremony described by one participant as "extremely moving".

Army chief of staff General Elrick Irastorza posthumously awarded each of the soldiers the cross for military valour with palm.

Stressing "need to protect the privacy of the families," the French defence ministry had earlier warned that the return of the bodies would take place away from media view.

Earlier Wednesday, 11 of the 21 French soldiers injured in the ambush in Afghanistan arrived in France and were taken to hospitals in Paris and at Saint-Mande, just outside the capital.

On Thursday, the country was to pay state tribute to its fallen troops in Paris, with the ceremony at the Invalides conducted by President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"I came to tell you that the work that you are doing here is essential," Sarkozy told the troops at their base at Camp Warehouse on the outskirts of Kabul during a lightning visit to Afghanistan Wednesday.

"The best way to be loyal to your comrades is to continue your work, is to raise your heads, to be professional."

[AFP / Expatica]

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