Ten French troops killed in Afghanistan

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Ten French soldiers have been killed in fighting with Taliban insurgents east of the Afghan capital, an Afghan military official said today.

The soldiers, part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), were killed in a major battle with insurgents that began on Monday about 30 miles east of Kabul, he said.

It was the biggest single loss of French troops in Afghanistan since US-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban after the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York.

France has 1,670 troops in Afghanistan having sent an extra 700 soldiers this year, responding to a US call for its NATO allies to send more forces to check a surge in violence.

ISAF said its troops were engaged in a "major battle" with insurgents in Kabul province that began on Monday, but spokesmen declined to comment on the French casualties.

The Afghan Defence Ministry said 27 insurgents have been killed or wounded in the clashes in Ouzbin area to the east of Kabul and at least two Afghan soldiers have been wounded.

The Taliban said on its Web site that 20 US soldiers had been killed in the fighting, which they said erupted after militants ambushed a convoy of Afghan and foreign forces late on Monday. That claim could not be immediately verified.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will travel to the region later today, according to the president's office.

"My determination is intact. France is determined to continue the struggle against terrorism for democracy and freedom. The cause is just," Sarkozy said in a statement.