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Bastille Day overshadowed by Afghan deaths

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Bastille Day overshadowed by Afghan deaths


Celebrations in France for the 14th July National Day have been overshadowed by the deaths of six French soldiers in Afghanistan.

Their regiments paraded down the Champs Elysees the day after the heaviest single loss of life among French forces for three years.

Five soldiers were killed and four seriously wounded on Wednesday in a suicide attack in the Tagab valley 60 kilometres north-east of Kabul. A civilian also died.

On Thursday a sixth serviceman, a marine commando, was shot dead in the same province during a joint French-Afghan operation.

President Sarkozy, who visited Afghanistan this week, has met defence chiefs to discuss new security measures.

France plans a phased withdrawal of all its troops from the country. The president said the retreat would begin as of this year and would continue until 2013.

“We are not abandoning the Afghans, but we are transforming our aid,” Sarkozy said. “From a military aid it will become essentially economic and educational. And then this Afghan army, which has grown in power, which comprises 350,000 men today, will take control of the security of their country.

Once again there was no garden party at the Elysee Palace; it was not considered appropriate given the conflicts abroad in which French military forces are involved.

France has 4,000 troops in Afghanistan and has now had 70 soldiers killed since it joined the US and NATO-led operations 10 years ago.

The Bastille Day parade and flypast was a chance to remember them and others serving in countries such as Ivory Coast.

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