Seriously injured soldier returns

Attacks on soldiers in Afghanistan have increased ‘several fold’

A Czech soldier who suffered “severe gunshot wounds” in Afghanistan is being treated at the Central Military Hospital in Prague-Střešovice, amid what a spokeswoman for the Czech Army General Staff (GŠAČR) said was a “several fold” increase in attacks since the beginning of the year.

The 31-year-old sergeant returned home aboard an Airbus A-319 alongside two other injured soldiers July 8, one who was wounded by stepping on a mine and another whose all-terrain vehicle drove over an improvised explosive device (IED). The other two soldiers have since been released from the hospital.

Officials are not revealing the specifics of the sergeant’s condition at the request of the family, GŠAČR spokeswoman Jana Růžičková said, adding that it is “still very serious.” He was serving a so-called “forward base” as part of Second Czech Army Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (AČROMLT), headquartered at Carwile Military Base in southern Wardak province.

The Czech military registered 60 attacks on personnel in January, but by May that number climbed to 168.

“One of the reasons is an important connecting highway to Kabul called Highway 1 goes through [Wardak province],” Růžičková said. “It is a highway where convoys carrying materials go and are often targeted by various groups. Due to the location of forward bases, the intensity of attacks against them has increased.”

On May 31, Sergeant Robert Vyroubal was killed after the vehicle carrying him, an Afghan interpreter and two other soldiers struck an IED in Wardak province. He was the fourth Czech soldier to die in Afghanistan, but the first in three years. Vyroubal was also serving for the OMLT.

The Defense Ministry has announced plans to cut the Afghan deployment of 720 soldiers to 520 by the second half of 2012. Parliament has endorsed up to 640 soldiers for next year. The OMLT is one of four AČR operations in Afghanistan, along with the ISAF-commanded Task Force in Kabul, the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Logar province, and the 6th Helicopter Unit in Paktika province.

“We have taken certain measures to enhance security, but we cannot publicize specific details with regard to the safety of the soldiers,” Růžičková said of the reaction to the increased attacks.

Soldiers from the forward bases “will go through a process of combat-capabilities renewal on the main bases,” she said.

– Klára Jiřičná contributed to this report.

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