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Five Poles die in Afghan bombing

Five Nato troops killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan today were all Poles.

It is the greatest loss of life in a single attack for the Polish military in the country.

The Polish Defence Ministry confirmed the deaths and said the soldiers were in a convoy headed to Ramza, in eastern Ghazni province. The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mohamad Ali Ahmadi, deputy governor of Ghazni province, said that Polish soldiers were attending a morning meeting in the Rawza district of Ghazni city, about 80 miles from the capital Kabul.

Poland is in the process of withdrawing some 100 out of the 2,600 troops it has in Afghanistan.

So far this year, 532 Nato service members have been killed in Afghanistan. The attack on the Polish convoy brings the number of Nato troops killed in December to 16.

Also in the east, Afghan police said they shot dead a would-be suicide bomber before he was able to attack a police station.

Meanwhile, an Afghan military spokesman said the country's armed forces now number 180,000 troops, a significant step toward having enough troops to replace departing coalition forces.

The expansion of the army and police is a critical element in Nato's exit strategy from Afghanistan. Coalition forces, which started their drawdown this year, are already handing over responsibility for security to the Afghan army and police in selected regions. The process will run through 2014 when international forces are to end their combat role.

But troops are continuing to leave the Afghan military and that the attrition rate remains high, at about 2% a month. This makes it necessary to recruit and train large numbers of men just to keep up the army's strength levels. Critics have said some of the men deserting are defecting to the Taliban and providing the insurgents with trained new fighters.

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