Taliban kill 4 French troops in Afghanistan

KABUL — The Globe and Mail

A soldier from the U.S. Army’s Alpha Company, 1-12 Infantry, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, guards a landing zone at night at Combat Outpost Pirtle-King in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province on June 9, 2012. (TIM WIMBORNE/REUTERS)

A Taliban suicide bomber disguised as a woman and wearing a burka blew himself up in a market in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing four French troops, officials said.

The French forces were responding to a report of a bomb planted under a bridge in the main market area of Kapisa province’s Nijrab district when the bomber walked up to them and detonated his explosives, said Qais Qadri, a spokesman for the provincial government.

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Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in an email.

France’s defence ministry confirmed the nationality of the dead and said another five French troops were wounded in blast. The ministry said they were on an operation supporting the Afghan army but did not provide details.

Mr. Qadri said four Afghan civilians were also wounded.

The Kapisa bombing was the second deadly attack on NATO troops reported on Saturday. NATO forces said earlier in the day that a service member was killed in a bomb attack in the east. A spokesman for the international coalition, Major Martyn Crighton, said the attacks were not related and happened in different parts of the east.

The latest deaths bring to 13 the number of international troops killed in June. So far this year, 189 international service members have been killed in Afghanistan.

Last month, French President Francois Hollande announced that 2,000 combat troops would be withdrawn, but that he would leave around 1,400 soldiers behind to help with training and logistics.

He restated his plan to withdraw all combat troops well before NATO allies, as he offered condolences to the victims’ families.

“This operation will start in July and be finished by the end of 2012,” Mr. Hollande, who took office in mid-May, said as he visited his political fiefdom 500 kilometres south of Paris on the eve of a parliamentary election.

Mr. Hollande said Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and army chief Edouard Guillaud planned to be in Afghanistan on Sunday.

Kapisa province has been a particularly deadly posting for French troops. In January, an Afghan soldier shot and killed four French troops on a base in the province.

With a report from Reuters