Slovak soldier killed in Afghanistan

TERRORISM is less of an abstract expression for most Slovaks after seeing images of the coffin containing the bodily remains of Sergeant-Major Daniel Kavuliak, the first death of a Slovak army member under the ISAF operation in Afghanistan.

TERRORISM is less of an abstract expression for most Slovaks after seeing images of the coffin containing the bodily remains of Sergeant-Major Daniel Kavuliak, the first death of a Slovak army member under the ISAF operation in Afghanistan.

Kavuliak, 35, died on July 9 in a green-on-blue shooting in which a uniformed Afghan soldier, termed a “terrorist infiltrator” by Defence Minister Martin Glváč, turned his gun on NATO troops. The Kandahar airfield attack left another two Slovaks with serious injuries and four others with light injuries. A governmental delegation flew to Kandahar to bring home Kavuliak’s remains with state officials declaring that the attack will not change anything about the government’s policies targeting international terrorism.

“Our soldiers are doing a very good job,” said Prime Minister Robert Fico, as quoted by the TASR newswire, after a governmental plane landed at the Bratislava airport on July 10 to hand over the coffin wrapped in Slovakia’s state flags to Kavuliak’s family. “We will not change anything on our approach to the fight against terrorism.”

The Slovak government in cooperation with other countries will continue in the elimination of terrorism because “it is not a way to solve political issues,” Fico told TASR.

The death of Kavuliak, the 55th Slovak soldier to have died while fulfilling tasks at foreign missions since 1993, has not changed the determination of his compatriots to continue their mission in Afghanistan, according to media reports. The soldiers with lighter injuries were offered to be transported to Slovakia but they refused. One of the soldiers with serious injuries from a bullet-wound to his chest is already communicating and is stabilised, while a soldier shot in the head remains in an induced coma. They will be recovering in Germany’s Landstuhle after being transported to the Ramstein base on July 11, the SITA newswire reported.

Presently there are 234 Slovak soldiers serving under the ISAF military operation in Afghanistan with another 178 soldiers serving in the KAF guard unit. Since 2004, more than 3,000 soldiers, including 15 women, have rotated into duty in the ISAF mission.

The attack

An Afghan citizen was shooting at the Slovak unit during a training of the members of the Afghan military, allegedly from a security tower which protected the civilian airport. However, official sources remained tight-lipped about the man's identity. The shooter was taken into custory after the incident and questioned.

Glváč confirmed on July 10 the earlier information that the attacker infiltrated the Afghan armed forces and “according to our information he was pacified by the Afghans themselves in cooperation with the Americans”.

According to Glváč, a standard investigation will take place with representatives of the Slovak armed forces presents, TASR reported.

“On behalf of all Americans, I wish to express my deep and heartfelt condolences to the friends and family members of the soldiers who were affected by this tragic event,” US Ambassador to Slovakia Theodore Sedgwick said, adding that his country is grateful to the Slovak Goverment, the Slovak Armed Forces and the Slovak people “for their contributions to the ISAF mission and our collective security”.

After the incident Slovak troops in Kandahar implemented several measures, including setting up teams to offer support to soldiers who were present during the incident, as well as those who are at the mission but did not attend the morning training, Miroslav Kocian, deputy head of the Slovak General Staff of the Armed Forces, told the media at a July 9 press conference.

He added that similar teams were also established in Slovakia to offer support to the soldiers’ families.

Injured soldier stays on

“I have lost a friend but we go on,” said Milan Kudera, one of the lightly injured Slovak soldiers, suggesting he sees no reason to leave the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, TASR reported.

Kudera described the attack as happening without any warning sign: “It was a shooting from the back. It was impossible to protect ourselves.”

After the Afghan attacker was detained, according to Kudera, the priority was to help the injured and evacuate them to the hospital, TASR reported.

Miroslav Staník, the chief of the attacked unit, avoided injury thanks to a knife that he always carries fastened to his belt.

“The boys always laugh at me that I am carrying a knife,” Staník told TASR. “I bought the knife in Iraq and I had not assumed that it would save my life here in Afghanistan.”

Staník expressed regret that others were not as fortunate as he was.

“Unfortunately, I have failed to fulfil what I had promised to them when we were coming here, that we all will leave from here back to Slovakia,” Staník told TASR. Like Kudera, Staník does not plan to leave the mission. “I came here with the boys, they trust me, I trust them and thus I will not leave them here.”

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