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German friendly fire kills Afghan soldiers

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[April 20, 2010]  KABUL (AP) -- German soldiers traveling to the scene of a deadly firefight with Taliban insurgents accidentally killed six Afghan troops, the Afghan military said Saturday. Three Germans died in the firefight with the militants.

InsuranceThe German central command confirmed Friday's friendly fire incident, but put the number of Afghan casualties at five. The deaths occurred amid heavy fighting between German troops and militants near the northern city Kunduz.

The German military said German soldiers who were rushing from Kunduz to the scene of the fighting on Friday afternoon encountered two civilian vehicles and demanded that they stop. When they did not, a German armored personnel carrier opened fire on them, the statement said. The vehicles were later found to have been transporting Afghan troops and an investigation is pending, the military added.


Shortly before, German troops had been attacked while on a bridge-building and mine-clearing mission southwest of Kunduz city, formerly a relatively calm area in the north that has lately seen a rising level of insurgent violence.

Kunduz provincial government spokesman Muhboballuh Sayedi said Afghan commanders were meeting on Saturday with coalition forces to discuss the incident.

The Afghan Defense Ministry issued a statement condemning the incident and expressing condolences to families of the dead soldiers.

Kunduz is one of the principal bases for the 4,300 German troops currently deployed in Afghanistan. The German parliament recently approved the deployment of 850 reinforcements.

The German presence has been controversial, particularly since a German-ordered airstrike last September on two tanker trucks that had been captured by the Taliban in Kunduz killed up to 142 people.

Growing Taliban influence in Kunduz has threatened a key military supply line that opened last year following painstakingly negotiations between neighboring counties and the United States.

The land route via Russia and Central Asia offers an alternative means of providing essential supplies to the 120,000-strong NATO force in Afghanistan. Most supplies come in overland from Pakistan along a corridor that has been frequently attacked by militants.

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Local officials say the Taliban are establishing a shadow government along the dilapidated road that could obstruct vital supplies carried in hundreds of trucks every week from reaching the military. It also raises the danger that the supplies could end up in militant hands as fodder for suicide attacks.

Elsewhere in Kunduz on Friday, an apparent rocket attack on an Afghan military base killed a small child and injured two women, the Afghan Interior Ministry reported. Another three civilians were killed in a pair of roadside bomb attacks in the eastern province of Khost, the ministry said.

NATO announced that a coalition soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan on Friday. It was the fifth NATO fatality so far this month.


Associated Press Writer Juergen Baetz in Berlin contributed to this report.

[Associated Press; By RAHIM FAIEZ]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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