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Five troops die in Kabul accident

The accident involved an SA-3 missile, similar to those pictured  

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Five peacekeepers -- three Danes and two Germans -- have been killed and seven injured in an operation to defuse anti-aircraft missiles in Kabul.

The SA-3 surface-to-air missile was taken to a demolition range in the Afghan capital on Wednesday to be defused with a controlled detonation, but it exploded before staff had cleared the area, German army chief Harald Kujat told reporters in Berlin, Germany.

Five German soldiers were also injured, three of them seriously, he said. The Danish prime minister said two of its peackeepers were wounded.

German Embassy sources in Kabul said some of the injured were taken to an International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) field hospital.

"It has happened to soldiers who are alert and prepared for such accidents, but obviously one is not always prepared," Kujat said.

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ISAF sources said British forces were also involved in the operation.

There are 1,200 German peacekeepers in Afghanistan -- representing about one-quarter of the 4,800 in ISAF -- with 850 based in Kabul.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder expressed sadness at the accident.

"What happened was a tragic accident. These were soldiers doing their job, defusing two Russian rockets. It had nothing to do with a military conflict," Schroeder said at a news conference.

In Copenhagen, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he had received the news with "deep sorrow and dismay." He confirmed three Danish soldiers had been killed and two injured but stressed the government's view was unchanged.

"Despite the accident it is important the work in Afghanistan continues. It is still important that we contribute to the fight against international terror," he said.

As well as the ISAF contribution, an unspecified number of German special forces are in Afghanistan with U.S. and British troops searching for al Qaeda forces.

Schroeder declined to comment further on the implications of the incident for Germany's role in the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan.

Germany's involvement in the mission has been controversial domestically, as have all post-World War II German military deployments.

The accident brings to 39 the number of German soldiers killed in foreign missions, . Only one, a doctor shot down in a helicopter in Georgia last October, was killed in combat.


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