KABUL (AFP) – Two German police officers and a German foreign ministry employee were killed in the capital of Afghanistan on Wednesday, blown up in a bomb attack claimed by the militant Taliban movement.
A fourth German was wounded in the attack, Germany’s biggest loss of life in the war-torn country since May. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he felt “deep sadness and horror” at their deaths.
A four-wheel-drive vehicle, of the type normally used by military forces and diplomats in Kabul, ripped apart and tipped over on its side, said an AFP photographer at the scene.
“It was a remote-controlled bomb which exploded in front of a military convoy,” Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP by phone.
A Western official in Kabul told AFP the victims had been travelling in two vehicles when the bomb went off. In Berlin, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble said all three dead had been members of the German federal police.
Schauble said the victims were in a “heavily armoured” vehicle on their way to a training exercise, “but the explosion was so powerful” it ripped through the armour plating.
The German embassy in Kabul confirmed all three victims had German diplomatic status.
“I learned of the deaths of three employees of the German embassy in Kabul with deep sadness and horror,” said Steinmeier, the foreign minister, in Berlin.
“Those behind this attack must be investigated and dealt with as soon as possible.”
He confirmed that another embassy employee had been injured in the blast, without giving further details.
“We’re investigating the incident, including the type of the bomb,” said a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, Zemarai Bashary.
In Brussels, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana denounced the incident.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms this terrorist act,” he said in a statement.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also condemned the killings as an “unacceptable display of intolerance and violence.”
In a statement, Kouchner offered his condolences to the victims’ families and pledged France’s “solidarity and support” to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Germany has about 3,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which along with US-led coalition troops is trying to support the Kabul government.
But despite nearly 50,000 international troops working with Afghan security forces, the Al-Qaeda backed insurgency of the Taliban has intensified this year.
The hardline Muslim militants ruled the country for five years until they were toppled from power by a US-led invasion after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The militants have been fighting Karzai’s government, allegedly with the support of militant elements across the border in Pakistan.
Wednesday’s attack came less than a week after hundreds of Afghan and Pakistani tribal elders and politicians agreed to deny “terrorists” sanctuary on both sides of the border, where Al-Qaeda-linked militants are active.
The interior ministry said Wednesday that nine insurgents were killed in a gunbattle Tuesday in Logar province, south of Kabul, between Afghan police and coalition forces. No other casualties were reported.