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Afghans trying to retrieve bodies of German hikers
Afghan police mount operation to carry down bodies of German hikers from mountain
By The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) ' Afghan police mounted a ground operation Tuesday to retrieve the bodies of two Germans found shot to death on a remote mountain after they disappeared while hiking nearly three weeks ago.

Officials had considered using helicopters to bring the bodies out, but helicopters cannot easily fly to the high-altitude region in the Hindu Kush mountains where the bodies were found, said NATO spokesman Capt. Justin Brockhoff. Instead, police will hike the four hours to the site and carry the bodies down, said Parwan province Police Chief Gen. Sher Ahmad Maladani.

The two men were found Monday with bullet wounds in their chests, their bodies stuffed in cloth sacks, officials said. It was 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.

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