- Title: VARIOUS: Taliban kill 10 French troops near Afghan capital
- Date: 19th August 2008
- Summary: (W3) KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (AUGUST 19, 2008) (REUTERS) AFGHAN DEFENCE MINISTRY NEWS CONFERENCE JOURNALISTS AT NEWS CONFERENCE (SOUNDBITE) (Dari) GENERAL ZAHIR AZIMI, AFGHAN DEFENCE MINISTRY SPOKESMAN SAYING: "During the night there was serious fighting between French ISAF forces and the terrorists. There may be casualties but we don't have the exact figure of the casualties. I am sure that if there are casualties the French military will announce this." JOURNALISTS SEATED DURING NEWS CONFERENCE (SOUNDBITE) (Dari) GENERAL ZAHIR AZIMI, AFGHAN DEFENCE MINISTRY SPOKESMAN SAYING: "The fighting is still going on but it has decreased a little. If there is a need for more troops, then we have enough troops to deploy in the area for support. At the moment the Afghan army is controlling the fighting. We don't see the need for more troops to be deployed." AZIMI LEAVING NEWS CONFERENCE
- Reuters ID: LVA90M5I5PQOZ65GLT3NQKVHA2GM
- Duration: 00:00:53
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: Defence / Military
- Story Text: Taliban insurgents killed 10 French soldiers and wounded 21 in a major battle east of the Afghan capital, the French president's office said on Tuesday (August 19), the biggest single loss of foreign troops in combat since 2001.
The Taliban have gradually closed in on Kabul in the past year, making travel south, west or east of the capital extremely hazardous for troops, aid workers and civilians and spreading fear among the populace.
At a news conference in Kabul, Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi, said there had been heavy fighting overnight.
"During the night there was serious fighting between French ISAF forces and the terrorists," he said.
"If there is a need for more troops, then we have enough troops to deploy in the area for support. At the moment the Afghan army is controlling the fighting," Azimi added.
The Afghan Defence Ministry also said 27 insurgents have been killed or wounded in the fighting and at least two Afghan soldiers have been wounded.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to travel to Afghanistan on Tuesday (August 19) in response to the attack, his office said.
"My determination is intact. France is determined to continue the struggle against terrorism for democracy and freedom. The cause is just,"
Sarkozy said in the statement.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who was attending an extraordinary NATO meeting in Belgium said the loss of the soldiers would not change France's policy in Afghanistan.
"I'd like to express to you the feeling that my country is experiencing. A very deep sadness. I can't tell you how much I salute the sacrifice of these soldiers. I am thinking of their families, of the wounded and I can assure you that nothing will change in French policies and we remain determined to fight alongside our allies," said Kouchner.
The French soldiers were killed in a major battle that erupted when Taliban insurgents ambushed their reconnaissance patrol from three sides in the Sarobi district of Kabul province about 60 km (40 miles) east of Kabul on Monday, officials said.
Significant air support was used to extract the units from an extremely violent ambush, the French presidency said.
France has 1,670 troops with NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, after Sarkozy sent an extra 700 soldiers this year in response to a U.S. call for its NATO allies to send more forces to check a surge in violence.
Only 12 French troops had previously died in Afghanistan since U.S.-led and Afghan forces ousted the Taliban in 2001 for refusing to give up al Qaeda leaders behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
The 10 dead and 21 wounded soldiers were from the 8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment, the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment and the Regiment de marche du Tchad, a mechanised marine unit.
The Taliban said on its Web site that 20 U.S. soldiers had been killed in the fighting, which they said erupted after militants ambushed a convoy of Afghan and foreign forces late on Monday. That claim could not be immediately verified.
The Taliban have stepped up attacks in provinces bordering the Afghan capital over the past year, closing in from the volatile south and east, where the bulk of the fighting has occurred since the militants relaunched their insurgency in 2005.
NATO Secretary General, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer sent his condolences to the French people during a statement, after ministers met in Brussels to discuss the crisis between Georgia and Russia.
"I offer on behalf of all ministers my sincere condolences to the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, and of course the French government and French people, because of the tragic death of 10 soldiers in Afghanistan last night, and the 21 are wounded which a few are very very seriously. I have to start on this sad note I'm afraid," said Scheffer.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also echoed Scheffer's wishes to the families of the soldiers.
"We would like to express our sympathy for the 10 soldiers killed in an attack in Afghanistan and to the twenty one others who were injured - as we just heard - some of them very seriously wounded. My sympathies and the sympathies of the German government go to the families of the soldiers,"
said Steinmeier during a media briefing.
Kabul has had fewer suicide bombings so far this year compared to 2007, but the attacks have been far more daring and have hit higher-profile targets, increasing the sense of insecurity in the capital.
While fighting raged east of Kabul, a wave of Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen attempted to attack the main U.S. base in southeastern Afghanistan.
They were repelled by ground troops and attack helicopters, NATO-led forces said.
ISAF troops killed seven of the insurgents, six of them suicide bombers, after they spotted them preparing to attack about 1,000 metres (yards) from the base.
Soldiers opened fire with small arms, then "helicopters arrived on station soon after and engaged these insurgents as they attempted to flee from the scene," ISAF said in a statement. "Three of the insurgents killed themselves by detonating their suicide vests. ISAF forces killed three other suicide bombers before they could detonate their vests. There were no ISAF casualties in the attack," it said.
A suicide car bomber rammed the gates of the same base, close to the border with Pakistan, on Monday, killing 10 Afghan civilians and wounding 13 more.
Camp Salerno is a large, sprawling base with a runway and helicopter landing pads close to the town of Khost and is the main hub for mostly U.S.
troops in southeastern Afghanistan.
More foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan in the past three months than in Iraq where the United States has twice as many soldiers than all the international forces fighting the Taliban.
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