The first Czech soldier has died in action in what the United States calls the war on terror. He was the victim of a suicide bomber in southern Afghanistan on Monday; two other Czech soldiers were injured, one of them seriously.
The Czech soldiers, military policemen, were among 35 Czech members of a special operations group serving in the relatively dangerous Helmand Province in the south of Afghanistan. On Monday they were helping protect Danish forces carrying out civil-military operations in the village of Girishk when – only 150 metres from their base – they became the victims of a Taliban suicide bomber.
Alongside the Czech officer who died two were injured, one of them seriously – he is currently being treated at a US military hospital in Kandahar. Three Danish soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were also killed in the attack.
The Czech who died on Monday has not been named, but he is reported to have been 35 years old and married with a child. He is the first Czech soldier killed in action as part of what the US calls the war on terror.
Andrej Čírtek is a spokesman for the Czech Ministry of Defence. I asked him if Czech troops were sufficiently protected from risk in Afghanistan.
“They are trained in the best possible way, they are protected as much as possible. The problem, and the reason for the success of the suicide bomber in this case, is that it was a mission on foot. Czech soldiers had to accompany their Danish colleagues who were responsible for CIMIC operations, which means civic military co-operations.
“During such operations soldiers visit hospitals, markets and offices of the Afghan government. And such missions must be accomplished by physical movement outside of armoured vehicles. Of course it’s very risky, but there is nothing you can do about it. It must be done.
“There are always dangers like this. There are many other armies in the ISAF [UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force] operation which have suffered worse attacks than we have suffered to date. I can say it was just a matter of time and a matter of chance before something so tragic can happen to the Czech Army too.”
This is the first killing of a Czech soldier in combat, so to speak, in Afghanistan. Do you think it could change public opinion towards the mission?
“In modern societies like our society, the most valuable asset is human life. This is the difference between us and terrorists. Because for them human life is absolutely worthless. This attack happened in an urban area, without any…care about the risk for civilians.
“What we must explain to our public is that such victims are necessary in order to avoid those threats getting closer to our borders or even to our homes.”
The remains of the soldier killed in that suicide bombing in Afghanistan will be returned to the Czech Republic this Friday.