Five people were killed and at least 30 injured in an apparent suicide bombing attack on an ISAF bus in Afghanistan.
German soldiers from the ISAF security force block a road leading to the explosion site in Kabul.
Four German Bundeswehr soldiers were killed Saturday morning in a car bomb attack in Kabul. The German Defense Ministry confirmed that five people in total were killed in the suicide bombing and at least 30 more were injured, including Afghan civilians.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder condemned the bombing as a "cowardly and insidious act" aimed at throwing the country back into chaos. He also offered his condolences to the families of the lost. "In these difficult hours, our thoughts are with the families of our soldiers who have risked their health and lives in order to provide a better and peaceful future (for Afghanistan," Schröder said.
An ambulance of International Security Assistance Force near to the scene of an explosion in Kabul.
Press reports claimed a Taxi packed with explosives detonated at 6:30 a.m. local time on a main Kabul street near a bus that was carrying ISAF soldiers. "The bus supposedly pulled up next to the bus and then the bomb ignited," an Afghan police officer told German public television. At least 33 people were traveling in the bus according to figures supplied by the German Defense Ministry. The incident marked the first time German soldiers have been attacked since they were first deployed in Afghanistan in January 2002.
The crowded street were the bombing took place is home to Kabul’s main ISAF base, where about 2,000 German and Dutch soldiers are stationed. Of the 4,500 soldiers in the ISAF force that has provided security in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, close to 2,500 are from the German Bundeswehr.
Force may extend beyond Kabul
The setback for the force comes just days after the German parliament said it would consider expanding the mandate of German soldiers in Afghanistan beyond Kabul. From late summer, the government is considering sending dozens of soldiers to provide security in the western city of Herat. Next week, a parliamentary exploratory committee will visit the region before taking a final decision.
German Defense Minister Peter Struck has said the extension of the mandate is crucial in order to ensure the safety of German aid workers who are helping to rebuild civil society in rural areas across Afghanistan. And on Saturday, he said the government had no intention of removing troops following the incident.
"As I have suggested a number of times, the situation (in Kabul) is neither secure nor stable. Our soldiers have been given comprehensive training and have been equipped for the mission in the country. We will undertake every conceivable measure to protect our soldiers on this mission and to ensure their security."
But the influential head of the German armed forces trade union, Bernhard Gertz, warned that it was time to strengthen the ISAF force or withdraw it completely from the region. In a newspaper interview, Gertz described Afghanistan as a "powder keg" and said Taliban and al Qaeda forces were regrouping and growing stronger.
The killings follow the death of a Bundeswehr soldier who died at the end of May after the ISAF truck he was driving rolled over a mine.