Prague/Kabul - Four Czech soldiers died in the blast of a bomb and another Czech soldier received serious injuries when patrolling the surroundings of the Bagram base in the Afghan province of Parwan at 05:15 CEST today, the Czech military general staff has confirmed.
Místo bombového útoku ve východoafghánské provincii Parván, při kterém zahynuli čtyři čeští vojáci. ČTK/AP Rahmat Gul
The injured soldier, a sergeant major aged 39, was treated on the spot and then taken to the U.S. military hospital at Bagram. He is out of imminent danger, according to the latest information.
The dead Czech soldiers were a sergeant major aged 28, a sergeant aged 34 and two corporals aged 33 and 39, the general staff said.
One of them was a member of the 41st mechanised battalion based in Zatec, north Bohemia. The remaining victims, including the injured officer, belonged to the 43rd airborne battalion based in Chrudim, east Bohemia.
AP reported that it was a suicide attack, responsibility for which was claimed by Taliban.
This has been the biggest one-off loss of the Czech military in peacekeeping missions abroad and it brought the total of Czech soldiers killed in the country to nine.
According to Czech brigadier Ales Opata, seven Afghan civilians, including one child, died in the attack.
Czech chief-of-staff Petr Pavel said the suicide attacker joined the crowd of local people with whom the patrolling soldiers were talking. The crowd included women and children, which made the soldiers believe that the situation was safe.
The attacker wore the Afgan police uniform, with the bomb planted in his jacket.
The soldiers were investigating a recent incident in which a rocket, launched from a local village, hit the Bagram military base, when the blast occurred.
"The fact that the attacker in the Afghani police uniform joined the crowd and blew himself up, this is something that cannot be either anticipated or prevented," Pavel said.
Taliban has hailed the suicide attack on the Internet and praised the attacker as a martyr.
The total number of Czech soldiers killed in military missions abroad since 1990 has risen to 24.
The Afghanistan Times news server, quoting the Bagram police chief, wrote that the suicide attacker set off the explosive when soldiers were distributing writing utensils to children.
Czech soldiers patrol by day and night an area within a 15- kilometres radius of the Bagram base, focusing on places from which the rebels shelled the base with missiles in the past.
A soldier of the Czech company was awarded for heroism in struggle by U.S. commander Mark Sherkey in June. He praised the whole company and its performance in the area.
The attack occurred at a time when the security in the country is worsening. Most NATO forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan after 12 years of fighting Taliban rebels.
The Czech Defence Ministry announced that minister Martin Stropnicky has interrupted a short holiday abroad and is returning to Prague.
A review of cases of death of Czech troops deployed in Afghanistan:
May 4, 2007 - A 28-year-old Czech soldier dies during the night by falling rocks and mud in the mountains in the Badakhshan province, another two are seriously injured in the accident.
March 17, 2008 - A 35-year-old Czech soldier dies in a suicide attack in south Afghanistan and another two members of the Czech military police suffer injuries. Two Danish troops were killed, too.
April 30, 2008 - A 29-year-old Czech soldier dies in the Logar province when his Humvee military vehicle hits a roadside bomb, four other soldiers in the vehicle are injured in the explosion.
May 31, 2001 - A 31-year-old Czech soldier dies in the Wardak province when an Iveco vehicle passengers hits an improvised explosive device, an Afghan interpreter is also killed and another two soldiers suffer injuries.
October 9, 2011 - A 32-year-old Czech soldier dies in a Czech hospital of the heavy injuries he suffered in an attack by an unknown shooter on the Shank base in the Wardak Province in July.
July 8, 2014 - Four Czech soldiers die in an explosion during their patrolling mission in Bagram, one Czech soldier is injured. The suicide attack, for which Taliban seems to be responsible, killed 16 people.