French troops ‘killed by Nato jets’


Al Jazeera | August 21, 2008

Reports that 10 French soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan after being mistakenly attacked by Nato aircraft are to be “looked into,” officials for the military alliance have said.

France’s Le Monde newspaper quoted French soldiers who had survived the ambush near Kabul on Monday saying they were hit in a “friendly fire” incident.

The soldiers told the newspaper they waited for four hours for back-up after being ambushed.

But when Nato planes finally arrived they hit French troops after missing their target, the newspaper quoted the soldiers as saying.

A Nato official said on Wednesday: “I have nothing substantive to confirm or deny this particular suggestion.

“We are aware of the media reports and therefore we have to look into it.”

The official said the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) “would probably defer in the first instance to the French authorities,” in the investigation.

Afghan ‘quagmire’

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said: “We have no reports of any casualties caused by close air support.”

Asked whether French soldiers had been killed or wounded by friendly fire, he said there were “no reports of that”.

The French army has refused to comment, the AFP news agency reported.

The comments came after Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, visited survivors of the incident at a French military base on the outskirts of Kabul on Wednesday.

He reaffirmed his government’s commitment to the war in Afghanistan, saying: “We have to be here.”

Speaking from Kabul, where he met Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, Sarkozy said he had no regrets about sending 700 reinforcements to the French contingent, adding: “If it had to be done again, I would do it.

“This is where the fight against terrorism is being waged.”

No statements

Al Jazeera correspondent Zeina Khodr said: “Sarkozy did not make any statements after his talks with president Karzai – just a photo op – leaving many questions unanswered.

“The main questions now: how will the loss of soldiers affect the French mission here and also Sarkozy’s decision to send reinforcements as promised earlier this year.”

The bodies of the 10 dead French soldiers were returned home on Wednesday as politicians and journalists questioned why France had got itself involved in the Afghan “quagmire”.

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