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Sarkozy pays tribute to soldiers

French President Nicolas Sarkozy lays a medal on the coffin of a soldier killed in Afghanistan
President Sarkozy laid posthumous medals on the coffins

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has led a memorial ceremony to honour the 10 French soldiers killed in a clash near the Afghan capital this week.

The ambush, east of Kabul, was one of the deadliest clashes suffered by foreign troops in the country.

The French president was one of the last people to leave the Saint-Louis des Invalides chapel in central Paris.

Mr Sarkozy gave an oration, saying: "Today is a day of mourning for the French nation.

"Today sadness and grief have engulfed the families, but every Frenchman is gripped by emotion," he said.

The president laid posthumous medals on the coffin of each of the dead men, making them Knights of the Legion of Honour.

"They gave their lives far away from their country to do their duty for the freedom of human rights and for the universal values which are the heart of our republic," he said.

The ceremony was attended by many government ministers, as well as the families of of those killed.

Ambush

The deaths have sparked a debate over Mr Sarkozy's decision to boost the number of troops in Afghanistan.

The French contingent is now about 2,600-strong, after the arrival of several hundred reinforcements in the past few months. A total of 24 French troops have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002.

The French president travelled to the country on Wednesday to meet the troops.

The bodies of the 10 dead men arrived back in France late on Wednesday at the capital's Roissy airport.

A separate plane also brought back 11 of the 21 soldiers injured in the ambush. They were sent to two hospitals in the Paris region.

The French troops were caught up in fighting that started on Monday in the area of Sarobi, some 50 km (30 miles) east of Kabul.

The fighting between about 100 soldiers - from France, the US and Afghanistan - and Taleban fighters went on for 24 hours and reinforcements were called in to airlift the troops to safety.

On Thursday, three Nato soldiers - reportedly Polish - were killed in fresh violence in the country.


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