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Germany's Merkel pays surprise trip to Afghanistan

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid an unexpected visit to German troops serving in the NATO mission in Afghanistan on Monday, a government spokesman said.

Merkel's trip to German troops based near Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan coincides with heightened tensions after an American soldier went on a shooting spree on Sunday killing 16 villagers in the south of the country.

Germany is the third largest contributor of troops to NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), with over 5,000 soldiers.

Merkel had also hoped to visit German forces at Kundus but bad weather forced her to abandon that plan. No further details about Merkel's trip were immediately available. She last visited Afghanistan in 2010.

(Reporting by Gareth Jones)