Three German soldiers were injured, two of them seriously, in an attack on their convoy in northern Afghanistan on Thursday, March 27, according to a statement from the German army.
German army patrols in the north of Afghanistan are increasingly at risk of attack
The soldiers were patrolling in the Chardara district in the northern province Kunduz, a relatively peaceful area, when the blast occurred, Provincial Governor Mohammad Omar later told reporters.
"A mine, which was planted by Taliban militants in Qasab area of the district, hit a NATO forces' tank," Omar said.
"The tank was damaged and three German soldiers were seriously wounded."
He blamed Taliban militants, whose government was toppled in a US- led military invasion in late 2001, for the attack.
"During the Taliban time, they were very active in this area, and now they still have their loyalists, whom they can use for this kind of attacks," the governor said.
Taliban claim responsibility as part of new offensive
The Taliban took responsibility for the attack in Kunduz. "In Qasab village of Chardara, a NATO tank was blown up by a mine, planted on the road by our mujahideen," the group said in a statement posted on a rebel website.
It claimed that the tank was "completely destroyed and 13 soldiers inside the vehicle were killed or wounded."
The statement said that the attack was part of a "spring offensive," announced by the militants on Wednesday.
Taliban militants are not very active in the northern provinces of Afghanistan, compared to southern and eastern regions, where the rebels are the most entrenched.
Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said on Thursday in a video conference from NATO headquarters in Kabul that the militants intended to expand their insurgency to the peaceful northern and western provinces of the country this year.
"We are expecting the Taliban to rely very heavily on IED roadside bombs and suicide attacks," Wardak said.
Pressure has been growing on Germany to deploy some of its forces to help combat the Taliban insurgency in the more volatile south of the country.
The attack on the troops near Kunduz comes just a day after Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay became the latest to call for a German combat deployment in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine.
Canadian defense minister questions Germany's commitment
Many leaders want German troops deployed in the south
Mackay said NATO allies were not sharing the burden evenly between them and that Germany should send its troops to help with combat operations in southern Afghanistan instead of confining them to the relatively peaceful north, hinting that he thought Germany was not fulfilling its international obligations.
"I understand that troop deployments are very difficult to push through in Germany for domestic political reasons, but there are also international commitments that we all have to meet," Mackay said.
Canada had lost more than 80 soldiers in operations, mainly in combat operations in Kandahar province, he noted.
German losses in Afghanistan total 26 troops and three police officers since forces were first sent there more than five years ago.
Mackay warned of the dangers of a "two-class" NATO and said all member states had to carry their share of the burdens.
Germany would profit from a stable Afghanistan unable to export terrorism, he said.
"The future of Afghanistan lies in NATO's hands. The Taliban and terrorist organizations are like a cancer. They proliferate and threaten human lives over the whole world," he said.
Mackay expressed admiration for Germany and said German troops wanted to do more in Afghanistan.
Germany has six Tornado jets stationed in Afghanistan
Germany has up to 3,500 troops stationed in the country, mainly deployed on reconstruction and training missions from their base at Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh province. It also maintains a flight of six reconnaissance Tornado jets.
The Afghan mission, the annual mandate for which comes up for parliamentary renewal in October, enjoys broad backing in the Bundestag but is consistently opposed by a majority of the population.
Danish soldier killed in firefight with Taliban
In an earlier attack in southern Afghanistan, a Danish soldier was killed and another wounded in a firefight with Taliban insurgents, according to a statement from ISAF.
The Danes were on patrol Wednesday in Helmand province, a hotbed of Taliban activity, when they came under fire in the Gereshk area, the ISAF spokesman in the province, British Lieutenant Colonel Simon Miller, told reporters.
"Regrettably as a result of the firefight one Danish soldier was killed and another was wounded," Miller said.
Germany has lost 26 troops and three police officers
Including the latest death, Denmark has lost 13 soldiers in Afghanistan. Two other Danes were killed March 17 in an attack on an ISAF convoy. Denmark has about 550 troops in Helmand, where most international soldiers with ISAF are British.
More than 30 international soldiers have been killed this year, most of them in hostile action. A total of 787 coalition soldiers have lost their lives since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan was launched in 2001.
ISAF draws its 47,000 troops from 39 countries. It is helping the Afghan government restore security in the face of an insurgency by the Taliban, who were in government between 1996 and 2001, and promote development.