Bodies of 4 French troops return home from Afghanistan

French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet accompanied the coffins which were draped in the French flag.

Paris: The bodies of four French soldiers were flown home, two days after their deaths at the hands of an Afghan soldier led President Nicolas Sarkozy to threaten to pull his forces out of Afghanistan.

French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet, who flew out to Afghanistan after the killings yesterday, accompanied the coffins which were draped in the French flag as they arrived at a Paris airport shortly before midnight.

Fifteen French troops were wounded in the attack by an Afghan soldier who shot dead the four unarmed soldiers at a base where they were having a joint sports session on Friday.

Twelve of the wounded soldiers were flown home on Saturday. Two others remain hospitalised at Bagram Air Base while one is being treated at the French military hospital in Kabul.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy reacted angrily, threatening to pull his forces out of Afghanistan ahead of the 2014 deadline for all US-led coalition combat troops, and dispatched Longuet to Kabul.

That started a round of claim and counter claim over who was responsible for the attack, with Longuet saying he was told the killer was a Taliban infiltrator in the ranks of the Afghan Army.

The Taliban, usually quick to claim coalition deaths, said they were still investigating and suggested some of the many attacks by Afghan soldiers on their foreign counterparts were prompted by anger towards the "invading enemy".

Sarkozy sent his defence minister to Afghanistan to evaluate ways to improve the security of the French troops who are training up the Afghan Army.

The US, Britain and France are the main contributors to the coalition forces of some 130,000 troops who have been fighting a 10-year insurgency by hardline Islamist Taliban forces ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks in the US.

France currently has 3,600 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.

A total of 82 French troops have been killed there since the start of their deployment in 2001.


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