Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has announced that a German soldier was killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan on Thursday. Six other soldiers were injured in the attack.
Fourty-four German soldiers have died in Afghanistan
A German soldier was killed and six others wounded in a suicide attack in Afghanistan on Thursday. The soldier was a 26-year-old staff sergeant from Lower Saxony.
The attack occurred near the Baghlan provincial capital of Puli Khumri in northern Afghanistan, where a group of German soldiers with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were on patrol.
German military officials said the patrol had been deployed to guard a road leading into the town when they came under mortar and rifle fire following the suicide bomb detonation, and that the skirmish lasted several hours.
Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack.
Announcing the death in the Bundestag, Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg offered his condolences and defended Germany's involvement in Afghanistan.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the soldiers and their families," he said. "This death and these injuries are part of a mission that serves our security and which was approved by this parliament."
Zu Guttenberg announced death on ninth anniversary of war
Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin condemned the attack as "cowardly."´
Ironically, news of the attack came as parliamentarians were debating how they could better provide for soldiers injured in combat and the families of those killed in action.
The deadly attack came on the ninth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. The death brings the number of German soldiers who have died in Afghanistan to 44. Twenty-seven of those died in combat.
Around 120,000 soldiers from 47 different countries belong to ISAF. Germany's 4,800 soldiers in NATO-led ISAF make up the third-largest contingent, after those of the United States and the United Kingdom.
The leader of the Left party, Gregor Gysi, renewed his demand for the immediate withdrawal of German troops from Afghanistan. "This tragic event on the ninth anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan brings home to us that the war, the situation there, hasn't improved in the slightest," said Gysi.
Germany's current mandate for the Afghan mission expires in February 2011, from which point, the government plans to start bringing its soldiers home. However, Germany has not set a concrete date for complete withdrawal.
Authors: Natalia Dannenberg, Andrew Bowen (AFP/dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold