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Afghan crash victims were U.S. Marines; France suspends efforts

January 20, 2012 |  7:59 am

 
REPORTING FROM JAIPUR, INDIA and PARIS -- U.S. military officials confirmed Friday that the six NATO troops killed in a CH-53 helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan the previous day were U.S. Marines. American-led forces reported no enemy fire in the area, but the Taliban claimed credit for causing the crash.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy also said Friday that his country was suspending all combat and training programs with Afghan forces and considering an early withdrawal after four of its soldiers were killed by a renegade Afghan soldier.

The attack in mountainous Kapisa province northeast of Kabul, which also wounded 16 French soldiers, is the second attack by an Afghan soldier in three weeks in the same province. The Dec. 29 incident, in which two French troops died, and the latest attack bring to 82 the number of French troops killed in the decade-long war.

Friday's suspected killer, a member of the Afghan national army, has been arrested, according to a statement by the coalition. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he was deeply distressed by the incident.

"France has been generous to provide extensive assistance to Afghanistan over the past 10 years," Karzai said. "Throughout history, the two countries have enjoyed a sincere relationship, which the Afghan people will always cherish."

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid called the attack "sensible."

Sarkozy said he would make a decision on whether to pull out troops before a 2014 deadline after a meeting with Karzai next week that had been previously planned. "It will be a difficult decision but one we will take in the days to come," Sarkozy said, adding that he was waiting for a Ministry of Defense report on the shootings. "The French army is not in Afghanistan to be shot at by Afghan soldiers," he added. 

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-- Mark Magnier and Kim Willsher


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