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German Journalist Killed in Afghanistan

Three foreign journalists are the latest victims of the fighting in Afghanistan. The advancing Afghan opposition forces plan to take the strategic city of Herat.

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The Opposition Northern Alliance has notched up several victories in Afghanistan

A freelance journalist of the Hamburg-based news magazine "Stern", German journalist Volker Handloik, 40 was reportedly killed in a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan. According to the spokesman of the "Stern" magazine, Handloik was an experienced journalist who had reported from several crisis zones in the world.

The two other journalists were–34-year-old French radio reporter Johanne Sutton, who worked for Radio France International (RFI), and Pierre Billaud, a correspondent for Luxembourg-based RTL radio.

They were the first journalists to be killed in the conflict in Afghanistan since the start of U.S.-led military action against the ruling Taliban on October 7.

The three journalists were among six reporters who had set out with Northern Alliance forces to try to verify opposition claims to have captured the town of Taloqan. They were accompanying Commander Hassan of the Northern Alliance on an inspection of a Taliban trench that they thought they had surrendered.

The three of them fell from the roof of an armored personnel carrier when Taliban forces waiting in ambush opened fire on the vehicle at close range with semi-automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

The incident is believed to have taken place near the border to Tadschikistan.

Handloik, from the eastern town of Rostock, had been reporting from the region since early October. He was the fourth journalist working for "Stern" to be killed covering a conflict in the last seven years.

"The death of Volker Handloik depresses us all and leaves us speechless," Stern editor-in-chief Thomas Osterkorn said.

During the Kosovo war in 1999, another two "Stern" reporters, Volker Krämer und Gabriel Grüner were shot dead by unknown assailants.

Greens in Germany Still Agonising over War Issue

The death of a German journalist will now raise new doubts among the traditionally Pacifist Green Party, the junior coalition partner in Germany’s Red-Green coalition, many of whose members are vehemently against the planned mobilisation of upto 3,900 German in the Afghan war.

German chancellor Gerhard Schröder is facing his biggest crisis as the Greens appear to be divided in supporting the Chancellor.

The question remains whether the government will survive a vote in parliament this week. The mobilisation is certain to be approved by parliament because the main opposition parties, the conservative Christian Democrats and liberal Free Democrats, have said they support it.

But Schroeder would be embarrassed if he failed to get a majority with his own coalition. His pledge of "unlimited solidarity" with the United States would be undermined, and the Red-Green government that has ruled Germany since 1998 could break apart.

Many leading Green politicians are demanding that the government furnish more information before ordering German troops to Afghanistan.

By Monday eight Green deputies had decided to vote against the planned military action in the German parliament. But even about 25 members of the ruling Social Democratic are said to have their doubts about the move.

Last week Greens Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer threatened to resign in a heated debate with the party's 47 deputies and warned them that opposing the mission could bring down the government.

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