- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 19, 2007

KABUL, Afghanistan In a rare attack in Afghanistan’s relatively calm north, a suicide bomber detonated himself next to German soldiers shopping in a crowded market yesterday, killing three of them, along with seven Afghan civilians, officials said.

The attack in the city of Kunduz occurred after two German vehicles on a security patrol stopped in the market and soldiers got out on foot to do some shopping, said Kunduz provincial police chief Gen. Ayub Salangi.

In addition to the three German soldiers killed, two were seriously wounded, said German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung, who cut short a trip to Denmark to rush back to Berlin. He said the other seven soldiers and one policeman in the group received minor injuries.

Seven Afghan civilians were also killed and 13 wounded, including seven seriously, said Azizullah Safer, director of the provincial health department.

A purported Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said a Taliban militant named Mullah Jawad from Baghlan province carried out the attack. The claim could not be independently verified.

Germany has 3,000 troops as part of the NATO force in Afghanistan. Germany’s contingent is stationed in the northern part of the country, which sees relatively few attacks and is considered much safer than the south and east, where most of the country’s fighting takes place.

It is the worst attack against Germans in the country since a car bomb exploded near a bus carrying German peacekeepers in June 2003, killing four soldiers.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the attacks “perfidious murders” that fill the country with “disgust and horror.”

“The German military is carrying out an important mission for the reconstruction and stabilization of Afghanistan. It is the goal of the attackers to destroy the established successes of this rebuilding process,” she said.

Although attacks in the north are rare, it was the second in a little more than a month in Kunduz. On April 16, a suicide bomber blew himself up on a police training field, killing 10 Afghan policemen and wounding 40 others. The Taliban also claimed responsibility for that attack.

The attack brings to 53 the number of international troops killed in Afghanistan this year, including 25 Americans.

Elsewhere, militants attacked U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces about 60 miles northeast of Kabul, sparking a rare gunbattle close to the capital that killed about 20 militants and three civilians, officials said yesterday.

The coalition, meanwhile, said about 20 Taliban fighters ambushed coalition soldiers and Afghan police patrolling near the Pakistan border in the eastern province of Paktia on Friday, sparking an eight-hour battle that killed “a significant number of insurgents.”

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