Afghan suicide bombing kills five French troops
CHARIKAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A suicide attack killed five French soldiers and seriously wounded four others in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the French president's office said on Wednesday, France's biggest one-day troop loss since 2008.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy had visited Afghanistan on Tuesday and detailed his plan to withdraw 1,000 troops by the end of 2012, around a quarter of France's troop commitment to Afghanistan.
"The French soldiers were protecting a council meeting in the Tagab valley," Sarkozy's office said. "A terrorist set off a bomb close to the soldiers wounding four other French soldiers seriously and three Afghan civilians."
The statement said one Afghan civilian was also killed.
A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had earlier confirmed there had been an insurgent attack in Kapisa causing foreign casualties.
Most foreign troops based in Tagab in Kapisa province, 50 km (30 miles) outside the Afghan capital, are French.
"The head of state expresses France's determination to continue to operate at the heart of ISAF to establish peace and stability in the country and to contribute to its development," Sarkozy's office said.
Abdul Hakim, the district governor of Tagab, said earlier three foreign soldiers had been killed in the attack, and two Afghan civilians and a policeman had also been wounded.
He said the suicide bomber walked up to the soldiers who were standing next to their armored vehicles before detonating his explosives.
Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since U.S.-backed Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in late 2001. More than 2,500 foreign troops have died in Afghanistan since the war began almost 10 years ago.
The attack on the French troops was the worst since 2008 when 10 soldiers were killed and 21 injured in a major battle against Taliban insurgents.
France has 4,000 troops in Afghanistan and has now seen 69 of its soldiers killed since it joined the U.S.- and NATO-led Afghanistan operation in 2001. The latest casualty was killed on Monday by an accidental shot from his own camp in Kapisa.
An opinion poll after the death of former al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in May showed more than half of French people support a withdrawal from the nearly decade-old military campaign against Taliban insurgents.
(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul, John Irish and Emmanuel Jarry in Paris; Writing by Jonathon Burch and John Irish)
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