The attack occurred around 9 PM CET, 30 kilometres west of Mazar-i- Sharif in the Balkh province. According to Swedish news agency TT, the Swedish Armed Forces were at first reluctant to disclose what kind of patrol the unit was on at the time of the incident or any particulars about their gear or vehicles.
“The Swedish unit opened responding fire, but none of the attackers were killed or injured, as far as we know at present,” Lukas Linné, Press Officer for the Swedish force in Afghanistan told TT.
It is still unknown who the attackers were, but according to Håkan Hedlund, head of the Swedish unit in Afghanistan, it is possible that they belong to a Taliban affiliated group which has recently caused unrest in the area. The explosion was caused by a hand grenade and not by a buried explosive charge, as previously believed.
”The attack must have been planned, as the soldiers have reported that thy were shot at from both the front and the sides,” Hedlund said to Swedish Radio News.
The Swedish soldiers were travelling in two vehicles behind the Afghani police at the time of the attack. Their mission was to provide support for the Afghani Police while they were carrying out their duties. While half of the eight man strong unit responded to the fire, the other four managed to move forward and give first aid to the injured police officers. After about an hour air support arrived and they were able to get the injured to safety.
The Swedish soldiers are reported to be in good spirits today. One has some hearing problems and another a minor hand wound but otherwise they are fine.
Thursday’s attack is not the first against Swedes posted in Afghanistan. During November and December last year, Swedish soldiers came under fire on three occasions, and in 2005 two Swedes were killed when a bomb detonated in their midst.
There are about 70,000 foreign soldiers in Afghanistan today. 50, 000 of these are part of the NATO force ISAF – International Security Assistance Force - sent to the country by the UN, while the other 20,000 are from the US.
The 400 Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan are part of ISAF. This year Sweden is to increase their presence in Afghanistan with another 100 soldiers. (RM)