Afghan authorities arrested two suspected suicide bombers outside the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif last week, adding to fears for the safety of German troops in the country.
German soldiers were likely the target of a planned suicide bombing
Less than a week after the German Defense Ministry announced a short deployment of 45 troops to aid coalition forces in the country's west, Afghan investigators arrested two men in their 20s outside Mazar-i-Sharif. The men -- of Pakistani and Tajik descent -- are said to have confessed and have been sentenced to be hanged, according to the German television channel N24.
German Defense Ministry spokesman Dietrich Jensch told reporters on Wednesday, May 21, that the men were found just outside of Mazar-i-Sharif driving a car carrying more than 220 kilograms (485 pounds) of explosives.
The town serves as the main base for Germany's 3,200 troops in Afghanistan; more than 80 percent of the soldiers stationed at the NATO base are German. The finding sparked some concern, as the northern city had previously been considered relatively safe. Much of the fight against Taliban insurgents has taken place in the south and west of the country.
Bundeswehr concerned by violence
The US wants Germany to deploy to the volatile southern parts of the country
Germany has been under pressure to deploy their troops to southern cities in order to aid the US, Britain, and Canada in their fight, but Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected that position, maintaining that it would jeopardize the country's reconstruction work in the north.
In April, however, the German army's chief of staff, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, was quoted as saying he was worried about an increase in violence in the north.
In late March an explosion seriously injured two German soldiers near the northern town of Kunduz, where German forces maintain a military barracks as part of the International Security Assistance Force. The barracks likewise came under fire in late February, when militants fired five missiles.
Since 2002, 26 German troops have died in Afghanistan.