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French soldiers killed in Afghanistan attack
Suicide attack kills at least five soldiers in eastern Tagab valley, amid growing calls for France to pull troops out.
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2011 14:17
The attack came a day after Nicolas Sarkozy, centre, had returned from a trip to Afghanistan [AFP]

At least five French soldiers have been killed, along with one civilian, in a suicide attack in Afghanistan, Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, has said.

Four other soldiers were seriously wounded in Wednesday's incident in Joybar in the country's eastern Tagab valley, Sarkozy said in a statement a day after he returned home from a visit to the country.

"The French soldiers were protecting a council meeting in the Tagab valley," a statement from the Elysee, the presidential palace, said.

"A terrorist set off a bomb close to the soldiers wounding four other French soldiers seriously and three Afghan civilians."

The statement condemned what it called a "cowardly murder" and expressed France's determination to remain part of the NATO-led coalition fighting in Afghanistan.

The attack was the deadliest blow to French forces in Afghanistan since an assault on August 18, 2008 that left 10 soldiers dead and 21 injured.

In that attack the soldiers' patrol was ambushed by Taliban fighters in Uzbin, in the Sarobi district east of Kabul, the capital.

The deaths in Wednesday's attack brought to 69 the number of French soldiers that have died in Afghanistan since 2001, when they deployed in support of the US-led campaign to overthrow the Taliban regime and hunt al-Qaeda fighters.

They are also a political blow for Sarkozy who defended the campaign in Afghanistan against opposition at home and is expected to seek re-election in next year's polls.

The attack came one day before the Bastille Day military parade in Paris.

The march down the Champs Elysees is the highlight of the French army's calendar, but will now be overshadowed by the ongoing violence in Afghanistan.

There have been growing calls for France to accelerate its withdrawal of troops from the country

Sarkozy announced on Tuesday during his trip to Sarobi that a quarter of France's 4,000-strong contingent would come home before the end of next year.

Source:
Agencies
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