Estonian soldier wounded in Afghan insurgent attack

December 30, 2006

* An Estonian soldier was hurt in Afghanistan’s troubled southern Helmand province as insurgents attacked troops from the Baltic state who are part of the NATO-led ISAF force, officials said.

“The Estonian soldiers came under handgun and mortar fire attack Wednesday evening in Helmand province when a unit was returning to base from escorting a convoy,” the Estonian defence forces said in a statement issued in Tallinn.

“The life of the soldier is not in danger,” the statement said on Thursday.

The attack came on the same day as two soldiers from neighbouring Latvia lost their lives in an attack in Iraq.

Estonia has 132 soldiers serving in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, making it the largest foreign mission for forces of the Baltic state of just 1.33 million people.

An Estonian infantry company and ordnance disposal team are taking part in a major operation in southern Afghanistan, alongside Dutch, British and Danish troops, to quell an unexpectedly strong insurgency by the Taliban.

Last month, US President George W. Bush urged other NATO member states to follow the example of tiny Estonia and “accept difficult assignments” in Afghanistan.

“Like Estonia, member nations must accept difficult assignments if we expect to be successful,” Bush said during a brief stopover here, on his way to the NATO summit in Latvia.