Fighting in northern Afghanistan kills 1 German special forces soldier, wounds another

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Insurgents in northern Afghanistan have killed a German special forces soldier and wounded a second, the German defense minister said Sunday. The fatality marks the first death in combat of a member of Germany's special forces in Afghanistan.

The soldiers were accompanying an Afghan-led military operation on Saturday when insurgents opened fire at a river crossing in Baghlan province, using fire arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

The troops called in air support but the special forces soldier was fatally shot later when exploring the airstrike's damage, Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said. The wounded special forces soldier's condition was not life-threatening, he added.

The 1,000-strong special forces are considered to be the German military's elite force, similar to U.S. Navy SEALs.

Several insurgents are believed to have been killed in the fighting some 26 kilometers (16 miles) north of the German base near the city of Baghlan, the military said. There was no immediate information on casualties among the Afghan troops, it added.

The NATO-led coalition forces in Kabul said late Saturday that one international service member had been killed in the north but provided no details.

Germany's 4,000-odd troops in Afghanistan are in charge of much of the country's north, which tends to be relatively calm compared to the more volatile southern or eastern areas.

Also Saturday, seven U.S. soldiers were killed in various attacks. Five U.S. troops were killed by a roadside bomb in the south, while two others died as a soldier with the Afghan National Army turned his weapon on coalition troops in the west.

"This was a bitter, a bloody day in Afghanistan and we won't forget it," de Maiziere told journalists in Berlin.

Germany is the third-largest international troop contributor in Afghanistan, where a total of 35 German soldiers have been killed in attacks or combat since 2002. The mission is generally unpopular in Germany but is supported by most political parties.