German President Gauck visits Afghanistan | News | DW | 17.12.2012
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German President Gauck visits Afghanistan

Joachim Gauck has made a surprise landing in Afghanistan to show "gratitude" to volunteers and soldiers. But elsewhere in the country on the same day, violence has ended in tragedy.

German President Joachim Gauck on Monday made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, as a bomb blast sent shock waves through Kabul.

Gauck landed at Mazar-i-Sharif airport in the country's north with his partner Daniela Shadt, said the Presidential Office in Berlin.

The president said, when addressing volunteers and security forces, that he had come to "express my appreciation, my appreciation and gratitude."

"You make sacrifices, show courage," he added. "You are also working here in Afghanistan to encourage those who want to achieve peace, democracy and prosperity."

The German president is set to spend his evening dining with development aid workers, police and soldiers.

It is Gauck's first visit to Afghanistan since taking office. His predecessor, Christian Wulff, visited the war-torn country in October 2011.

A tragic day

The visit comes on a deadly day in Afghanistan, which has been tragically tainted with violence. Ten Afghan girls between the ages of nine and 11 were killed and two others were injured on Monday when a landmine exploded in Chaprehar district of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, the provincial governor's office said in a statement.

"The girls were gathering firewood, when the landmine exploded," the statement said. Nobody claimed responsibility for the explosion but one spokesperson said it may have been an accident.

Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded Monday at a compound owned by a US logistics company under contract to the Afghan army, killing at least one person and wounding 15, police said.

Afghanistan's Islamist Taliban movement claimed responsibility for the bombing.

"A suicide car bomber attacked an important American company which is involved in security," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

sej/hc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)