Four German soliders killed in a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan on April 15 were laid to rest on Saturday, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and several cabinet members attending the services.
Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg offered his condolences to the families of the four, stressing that their deaths were not in vain.
Killed in an ambush were Major Joern Radloff, 38, Colonel Doctor Thomas Broer, 33, Sergeant Major Marius Dubnicki, 32, and Sergeant Josef Kronawitter, 24.
Their funeral, with full military honors, was held in a cathedral in the city of Ingolstadt on Saturday. Individual burials in the soldiers' hometowns were scheduled for later on Saturday.
Thousands of people came to the service in the Bavarian city. Besides Merkel and Guttenberg, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Afghan Foreign Minister Salmai Rassul were in attendance.
The four died protecting "the lives of our families, of our born and unborn children," Guttenberg said. "The encounter at Baghlan on April 15 brought it home how dangerous our mission in Afghanistan is."
He added that the soldiers knew about the dangers of a war zone and that they had fulfilled their duties "responsibly and with bravery."
"Our promise to the Afghan people stands. We will help this stricken land to be at peace - and this serves our own security," Guttenberg said.
His remarks echoed those made on Thursday by Merkel in a speech to parliament in which she linked security in Afghanistan to security in Europe and in Germany.
Deaths and doubt
The four soldiers are among seven German troops killed this month. Forty-three have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
A poll by German broadcaster ZDF published on Friday revealed that about 53 percent of Germans do not believe German security is being served by the Afghan mission.
Another recent poll indicated about 62 percent want German troops to return home.
Editor: Kyle James