Berlin: Germany`s Defence Minister
Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg admitted Sunday that German troops
mistakenly killed six Afghan soldiers at the weekend, and
expressed condolences for the deaths.
The German troops were en route to reinforce others under
attack and had opened fire on a civilian vehicle that had
ignored warnings to halt and in which the Afghans were
travelling, the head of the German armed forces said.
The defence ministry had said earlier that five Afghans
died in the incident late Friday, which came soon after German
forces were ambushed by Taliban militants with three troops
killed and eight wounded.
In a televised news conference in Bonn, Zu Guttenberg
expressed his condolences to the families of the six Afghan
soldiers and the three German troops killed near the
northeastern town of Kunduz.
Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her sympathy in a
telephone conversation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai late
Zu Guttenberg also stressed Germany`s commitment to
making troubled Afghanistan safe, saying: "Our soldiers aren`t
there for nothing."
"We will stay in Afghanistan" even though the situation
was "war-like", he added.
Germany has about 4,500 troops in the country, working
alongside soldiers from several countries under NATO command
against an insurgency that has followed the ouster of the
Taliban regime in a US-led invasion in late 2001.
Most of the German forces are in northern Afghanistan,
which is relatively peaceful compared to other areas of the
country although Kunduz has seen an increase in attacks by
Taliban and other insurgent groups.
Describing Friday`s attack on the German troops, army
chief of staff General Volker Wieker told the news conference
that a patrol was ambushed with gunfire and rockets by two
groups of Taliban numbering around 30-40 fighters each.
A German armoured vehicle also struck a mine.
The fighting that followed lasted around 10 hours, he
said. NATO air support was called in but was unable to attack
for fear of striking German soldiers or civilians.
Three soldiers were killed and eight wounded, four of
them seriously, the general said. The four were evacuated to
Germany and two had undergone emergency operations. A hospital
spokesman said they were stable.
The general said a German unit sent to reinforce the
soldiers under attack had opened fire on two civilian vehicles
which had not heeded calls to stop. Six Afghan soldiers in one
of the vehicles were killed, he said.