The Czech Republic on Thursday paid tribute to four soldiers who died in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan earlier this week. The soldiers’ remains were received with honours at Prague’s military airport in Kbely on Thursday afternoon in the presence of President Miloš Zeman and other Czech officials.
Sirens and church bells sounded for three minutes in Czech cities and towns on Thursday noon as a tribute to the four soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan two days before. Later in the afternoon, the servicemen’s remains arrived on a special flight at Prague’s Kbely military airport where they were received with full military honours in the presence of President Miloš Zeman, Defence Minister Martin Stropnický, and other officials.
The four men, aged between 28 and 39, suffered fatal wounds in a suicide bombing outside NATO’s Bagram airbase on Tuesday morning, in what was the deadliest single attack against Czech troops since they entered Afghanistan in 2002. Another soldier suffered serious injuries in the attack, and remains in a US military hospital at the base. In total, 17 people died in the bombing including at least one child, the Czech military said.
The attack occurred when Czech soldiers, members of the Czech contingent of NATO’s ISAF forces stationed at the Bagram base, were patrolling the vicinity. They descended from their armoured vehicle, and were communicating with a crowd of locals, the chief of the army’s general staff, General Petr Pavel said. The suicide bomber, a member of the Taliban, was reportedly dressed in Afghan police uniform which made it hard to anticipate the threat.
Military chaplain Petr Fiala was the only person to address the ceremony at the Kbely airport on Thursday with a prayer. But top Czech officials earlier this week hailed the fallen soldiers as heroes, and extended their condolences to their families and friends. They vowed the country’s unwavering commitment to fighting terrorism as part of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. President Miloš Zeman assured the men did not die in vain.
“The more intense the fighting in Afghanistan is, the lower the threat that the Czech Republic’s civilian population will be targeted. This is the deep significance of their duty, and this is the deep meaning of their sacrifice.”
There are now 270 Czech troops serving in Afghanistan; 150 of them, mostly of the army’s 43rd Airborne Battalion and the 21st Mechanised Battalion, are stationed at the Bagram airbase. In total, nine Czech servicemen have died during their deployment in that country.