Four German soldiers are reported dead in an attack on a military patrol in Afghanistan, less than two weeks after a deadly ambush in the same region. SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned from sources in the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, that the soldiers were attacked with shoulder-fired rockets during a patrol between Kunduz and Baghlan. An as yet unknown number of Bundeswehr troops have been seriously injured.
The attack came a day after German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg made a surprise visit to Afghanistan. He received the news Thursday just after landing at a German supply base in Termez, Uzbekistan.
"I am deeply saddened to inform you that, according to the latest information, three or four German soldiers have been killed and five or six soldiers have been injured," the defense minister said from Termez, promising to return to Afghanistan to "be with our soldiers" and to investigate the deaths.
It is believed that the soldiers killed on Thursday were part of the German Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Faizabad, in the province of Badakhshan. A spokesman for Guttenberg said he would travel to Faizabad if that information were confirmed.
Government Takes Steps to Better Equip Troops
On Friday, April 2, three German soldiers were killed and another eight injured in an ambush that sparked the heaviest fighting since the start of German deployment in Afghanistan.
The government in Berlin appeared this week to be taking steps to better equip its troops. On Thursday the Financial Times Deutschland reported that the government planned to order 60 Eagle IV armored vehicles from Swiss manufacturer Mowag. Another 90 will be ordered in 2011 according to current government plans, the paper reported.
During his visit on Wednesday, Guttenberg had already pledged to improve the soldiers' equipment. He promised to send two large armored howitzers, TOW anti-tank missiles and additional Marder armored personnel carriers.
About 4,500 German troops are stationed in Afghanistan now. They currently have around 975 armored vehicles from various manufacturers, according to the Financial Times, but in a letter to leaders of the political parties in Germany's parliament, Guttenberg wrote that 600 of the vehicles needed to be replaced in light of an increased threat from roadside bombs and other attacks.
Guttenberg said in the letter that the armored vehicles were needed as quickly as possible -- especially considering the government's plans to bolster the number of Bundeswehr troops in Afghanistan to 5,350.
German involvement in Afghanistan remains a controversial topic for voters.