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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 12:27 GMT
Kabul blast to be investigated
German soldiers in Kabul
German troops are engaged in mine clearance operations
A commission of experts from Germany and Denmark will fly to Afghanistan to investigate the deaths of five peacekeepers in an explosion on Wednesday.

Three Danish and two German soldiers died and eight others were injured while destroying two Russian-made SA-3 ground-to-air missiles at a munitions dump in the capital, Kabul.

Rudolf Scharping
Rudolf Scharping: Deep sympathy for families
German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping said the investigation was "in the interests of the protection of the soldiers we deploy in Afghanistan and elsewhere and also those we will deploy in the future".

An initial report is expected within two days.

The eight injured soldiers - five German and three Danish - are now out of danger and are being flown to Cologne later on Thursday.

Military risks

Mr Scharping his "deep sympathy" for the victims and their families.

Main Isaf troop contributors
UK 1800
Germany 770
Holland 200
Denmark 40
Austria 30

He said the incident had demonstrated "the risks of every military deployment".

On Wednesday Mr Scharping cut short a trip to Djibouti, where he was visiting German naval forces, to return to Berlin.

German army chief Harald Kujat has stressed that the deaths were accidental and the soldiers were experienced and well-trained.

According to Spiegel online, the explosion took place as the soldiers were putting the ground-to-air missiles and other smaller munitions into a ditch.

Commitment unchanged

After Wednesday's incident, the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was quick to stress that the soldiers had died in non-confrontational circumstances.

"What happened was a tragic accident," he said. "It had nothing to do with a military conflict."

He said there was no reason to question Germany's participation in the security force.

The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has also said that Denmark's commitment to the peacekeeping mission is not affected.

See also:

06 Mar 02 | Europe
Germany's military soul searching
06 Mar 02 | South Asia
Al-Qaeda stronghold under siege
23 Dec 01 | Europe
Germany approves Afghan force
06 Feb 02 | South Asia
UN envoy urges larger Afghan force
02 Feb 02 | South Asia
Peacekeepers key to Afghan future
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