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Afghan police mount operation to carry down bodies of dead German hikers from mountain
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) ' The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday that an American civilian employee was killed in Kabul province, the second announcement of an international civilian death in two days.
J.D. Hardesty, a spokesman for the corps in Kabul, declined to give further details because the death was being investigated. NATO previously said that the civilian was killed Monday but did not give any other details.
About 60 miles (100 kilometers) to the north of the capital, meanwhile, Afghan police retrieved the bodies of two Germans found Monday on a remote mountain after they disappeared while hiking in Parwan province nearly three weeks ago.
While the area of eastern Afghanistan in and around the capital is relatively safe, the city of Kabul is a target for Taliban attacks and criminal kidnappings are common throughout the region.
In Parwan, officials abandoned a plan to use helicopters to bring the bodies out because of the difficulty of flying in the high-altitude region of the Hindu Kush mountains where the bodies were found. Instead, police hiked to the site and back over more than eight hours and carried the bodies down, said Parwan province Police Chief Gen. Sher Ahmad Maladani.
The police handed the bodies over to U.S. soldiers, who loaded them into vehicles. A soldier at the site, Staff Sgt. Ashley Waruch, said that the bodies would be flown back to their families.
Their bodies were badly decomposed making it difficult for officials to determine the cause of death. Initial reports indicated they had been shot, but Salamg district police chief Quddus Khan said on closer inspection the Germans might have died from blunt trauma. It was also unclear when they died.
A spokesman for the Afghan agriculture ministry said the two worked for a German development and assistance organization, GIZ. Majeed Qarar, the spokesman, said they were advisers to the agriculture ministry and that they regularly went hiking in the mountains in Parwan.
A spokesman for GIZ declined to comment, referring all queries to the German Foreign Ministry.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle confirmed that two bodies were found in Parwan province but refused to give any further details until they had been identified beyond doubt.
The region where the Germans disappeared is not a Taliban area. Last month Afghan police speculated the two men could have gotten lost in the high mountains or may have been the victims of a crime.
The day they disappeared, the two traveled to the south end of the Salang Pass, north of Kabul, around 8 a.m. and told their driver they were going into the mountains. They promised to return at 4 p.m. The driver waited until 6 p.m. before contacting local authorities, and the search began.
The Salang Pass is a major route through the Hindu Kush mountains that connects the Afghan capital, Kabul, with the northern part of the nation.
Germany has been a major contributor to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and currently has some 5,200 troops stationed in the country, largely in the north.
In eastern Afghanistan, meanwhile, a district government head and three of his bodyguards were killed in a roadside bomb blast, said Ahmadzia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the government of Nangarhar province.
The official, Asel Ahmad Khogyani, was driving in Sherzad district on Tuesday afternoon when a remotely detonated bomb went off, killing everyone in the vehicle, Abdulzai said.