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Germany

German President Gauck honors fallen Bundeswehr soldiers

In the third day of his visit to Afghanistan, German President Joachim Gauck has paid tribute to German soldiers who have been killed there. Further plans to visit a military camp had to be scrapped due to weather.

In a ceremony on Wednesday at a base near Mazar-e-Sharif, Gauck lit a candle in the memorial grove of the German headquarters there to honor the 52 German soldiers who have been killed while serving in Afghanistan. He was accompanied by his partner, Daniela Schadt.

Wednesday marks the final day of Gauck's three-day visit to Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Gauck met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and was received with military honors. In a joint press conference with Gauck, Karzai hailed the handover of security to national forces and the withdrawal of NATO troops.

Germany has contributed the third largest number of troops to NATO's International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan. Currently there are around 4,500 German troops stationed in the country. While German troops are scheduled to withdraw along with the rest of the NATO troops in 2014, Germany has pledged its support to Afghanistan beyond the withdrawal.

mz/hc (dpa, dapd)