Four French soldiers killed in Afghan east
KABUL (Reuters) - Insurgents in Afghanistan killed four French soldiers and wounded another five on Saturday, one of the deadliest attacks on the French contingent in months, as violence escalates across the country.
The raid occurred in mountainous Kapisa province in the east which is mainly patrolled by a French force under NATO command.
Details of the attack were not immediately available but French President Francois Hollande's office confirmed in Paris that the soldiers involved in the attack were French.
A statement from his office said that among the five wounded, three were in a serious condition, and Hollande had dispatched defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to Afghanistan after the attack.
Abdul Rahman, Kapisa's provincial police chief, said the insurgents had carried out a suicide attack on the French troops in the Nijrab district of the mountainous province.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in an email message that a suicide attacker had struck the foreign soldiers.
Violence has surged across Afghanistan in recent weeks, with the Taliban vowing to target the Afghan government and security forces, as well as the 130,000 foreign troops in the country, most of whom are due to leave by the end of 2014.
France plans to withdraw most of its roughly 3,400 troops by the end of this year, two years ahead of the timetable agreed by NATO. French troops have suffered a series of attacks including several by rogue Afghan soldiers, triggering demands in France for the troops to be brought home early.
Last month Hollande, during a visit to the volatile Kapisa province, defended the decision to pull out early, saying the job of fighting terrorism was nearly done, and France would focus on cooperating on the civilian front.
France's decision has raised concerns that other members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition may follow its example and accelerate their withdrawal plans, handing security prematurely to fledgling Afghan forces.
(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani and Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)
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