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Germany

German soldier killed in Afghanistan as Steinmeier meets with Karzai

Suspected Taliban militants killed a German Bundeswehr soldier and wounded four others in an ambush in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday evening. The attacks came as Germany's foreign minister was visiting Kabul.

German soldiers, part of the International Security Assistance force stand guard

German soldiers came under two separate attacks Wednesday

Defense ministry officials said the soldiers were patrolling an area north-west of the city of Kunduz when they were attacked with small arms and grenades.

Earlier in the day a suicide bomber targeted another German patrol south of Kunduz, lightly injuring five soldiers.

Both incidents occurred after German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived in the Afghan capital Kabul on an unannounced two-day visit.

Steinmeier condemned the ambush as "cowardly and malicious."

"But such attacks must not prevent us from going about our work, building a better future for the oppressed people," he said.

The latest death brings the number of German soldiers killed while serving with the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to 32.

Sending a message?

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, left, and Hamid Karzai

Steinmeier's Afghan trip was unannounced for security reasons

German defense officials said there was nothing to indicate the incidents were linked to Steinmeier's presence, but a report published by the online edition of German news magazine Der Spiegel suggested Taliban insurgents planned the first attack to send a message to the German government.

Details of Steinmeier's fourth visit to Afghanistan were, as usual, kept secret until the last minute for security reasons.

Three weeks ago German Chancellor Angela Merkel's tour of the region was overshadowed by a Taliban attack.

Militants launched rockets at the German military base in Kunduz just minutes after the chancellor left the city by helicopter. No casualties or damage was reported.

Troop boost

German soldiers board a plane

More German troops are to be deployed to Afghanistan

Steinmeier’s itinerary includes meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his foreign and interior ministers, and international representatives in Afghanistan.

A presidential spokesman said Steinmeier and Karzai had already discussed boosting German troop numbers and logistical support for Afghanistan's second presidential election on August 20.

Germany currently has about 3,800 soldiers in Afghanistan and its contribution to the ISAF is the third-largest behind those of the US and the UK. German lawmakers voted last year to increase its deployment to 4,500.

Meanwhile, Steinmeier said he supported a "regional solution" that includes Pakistan in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.

"As long as this is not the case, our efforts in Afghanistan will only have limited success," Steinmeier said after his meeting with Karzai.

Pakistan's border region with Afghanistan serves as a refuge for militants who often launch attacks into Afghanistan.

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