Rocket attack on Afghan base visited by German leader

April 6th, 2009 - 6:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Kunduz (Afghanistan), April 6 (DPA) A German military base in Afghanistan came under rocket fire shortly after a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday, a government spokesman said in Berlin.
Two missiles were fired at the base in Kunduz 20 minutes after the chancellor left, deputy government spokesman Thomas Steg said. The missiles landed outside the perimeter fence and caused no casualties or damage.

Merkel paid a surprise visit to the central Asian country to discuss reconstruction projects and visit German soldiers.

“There is hope,” she said after a stop at the base in the northern city of Kunduz, where 700 German troops are stationed.

Merkel added, however, that the country’s security must see improvements, a large part of which would come in the form of building up the Afghan security forces.

The two-day visit, which was kept secret until Merkel’s arrival for security reasons, followed on the heels of NATO setting a new strategy for Afghanistan. At its summit in Germany and France, the alliance decided to put a greater emphasis on reconstruction alongside its fight against the Taliban.

US President Barack Obama also has announced plans to shift the US emphasis from Iraq to Afghanistan and plans to raise US troops levels in the Central Asian country by 21,000 this year from the current 38,000.

Germany also plans to increase the number of its soldiers deployed in Afghanistan from 3,800 to 4,400 in the months leading up to presidential elections in August.

Merkel, who was making her second visit to Afghanistan after a 2007 trip, met Monday with soldiers as well as representatives from non-governmental organizations on efforts to improve living conditions in Kunduz and the surrounding area before flying on to another northern city, Mazar-e Sharif.

Unlike her 2007 trip, Merkel does not plan to visit Kabul and President Hamid Karzai.

Three attacks on German soldiers occurred near the Kunduz base shortly before Merkel’s visit. A patrol was hit Sunday by a roadside bomb in Kunduz, but like the other two attacks at the weekend, no one was injured.

Over the past four weeks, five rocket attacks have been carried out on the Kunduz base and two roadside bombings on its German patrols. A year ago, three German troops were killed in the city.

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