Six Canadian soldiers killed, German abducted in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) – A bomb struck a NATO vehicle in southern Afghanistan Wednesday, killing six Canadian soldiers and their interpreter, while a German national was reported kidnapped in a remote and dangerous area.

At approximately 11 o’clock this morning, six Canadian soldiers and one local Afghan interpreter were killed when the vehicle they were driving in struck an improvised explosive device about 20 kilometres (13 miles) southwest of Kandahar city,” Brigadier General Tim Grant said in Ottawa.

Most of Canada’s 2,500-strong deployment with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force is based in Kandahar which is at the heart of an insurgency by Taliban militants.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the Taliban movement regularly carries out such bombings on foreign troops.

“The ISAF community mourns the loss of these brave soldiers,” ISAF spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Maria Carl said. “They gave their lives to improve the lives of the Afghan people.”

It was one of the deadliest bombings of an ISAF vehicle. Six Canadian soldiers were killed in a similar blast on April 8. The deaths took to 105 the number of foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year, most of them in combat.

Germany announced meanwhile that one of its citizens was considered kidnapped after being missing for more than a week.

An Afghan governor said he had been abducted in the southwestern province of Nimroz, not far from where two French nationals were captured in April and held by Taliban.

The Taliban has however not claimed to have kidnapped a foreigner. Criminal gangs in Afghanistan have also abducted people to demand ransom payments.

German Defence Minister Franz-Josef Jung said the missing man “works for a company.” The foreign ministry said earlier he was not a journalist or an aid worker as some of the Taliban’s previous captives have been.

“A German citizen has been missing in Afghanistan since last Thursday evening,” ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger told a press conference.

“On Saturday, a crisis unit was assembled in the foreign ministry,” he said.

The governor of southwestern Nimroz province said the German had been seized in the Delaram district of Farah province, on the border with Nimroz.

“A German national, I don’t exactly know for which organisation he was working, was abducted on Monday in Delaram district area,” Nimroz governor Ghulam Dastageer Azad said.

Azad did not say who the kidnappers might have been and the interior ministry in Kabul could not confirm the claim.

The area, on the main highway from southern to western Afghanistan, has seen several incidents with an Indian engineer abducted and beheaded nearby in late 2005.

The governor of Farah, Ghulam Mohaiddin Baluch, said the man had been introduced to police as a journalist and had passed through Delaram with his Afghan driver about a week ago on the way to the western city of Herat.

“Police stopped them and questioned them about who are they, where are they going. He introduced himself as a journalist,” Baluch said.

“We let him go and since then he is missing.”

The two French aid workers were abducted in Nimroz in April with three Afghans. They were freed in stages but the details of the deal that secured their release have never been released publicly.

There had been fears the Afghans would be beheaded as were the translator and the driver of an Italian journalist who was controversially freed in April after the government released five Taliban prisoners.

The extremist Taliban movement was in government from 1996 to 2001 before being toppled in a US-led invasion for sheltering the Al-Qaeda network, which is now supporting their insurgency against the Western-backed government.

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