AFP – Finland lost its first soldier in Afghanistan when a bomb struck a foot patrol in the normally peaceful north, while another Taliban suicide bombing hit the capital and killed a policeman.
The new attacks linked to a spreading Taliban insurgency came as Germany transported home the bodies of three of its soldiers killed in a Taliban suicide blast on Saturday, also in the usually calm north.
The Finn was killed in a bomb blast about 50 metres (yards) from a base of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Maymana, capital of the northwestern province of Faryab, officials said.
Norwegian military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jon Inge Oeglaend confirmed the Finn’s death and said no Norwegians were killed as claimed by Afghan police. A Norwegian military statement said four Norwegians were slightly injured.
A police deputy intelligence chief in the town, Isatullah Sangarmal, said an Afghan civilian was also killed and another wounded.
Sangarmal said the bomb may have been remotely detonated as it exploded as the soldiers were about to enter the base after returning from a foot patrol of the remote and normally peaceful town.
The Finn was the first soldier from his country to be killed in Afghanistan since foreign armies deployed here after the extremist Taliban government was toppled in 2001, according to the icasualties.org website that lists casualties.
Finland has 70 soldiers with ISAF while Norway has around 350. A Norwegian soldier was killed in 2004 in a rocket attack in Kabul.
Faryab has seen virtually none of the Taliban-linked attacks which afflict southern and eastern Afghanistan on an almost daily basis.
Norwegian soldiers were however attacked with stones and handgrenades in Maymana in February 2006 in one of a series of violent demonstrations across the country against cartoons published in Europe that were deemed to insult the Prophet Mohammad.
A purported Taliban commander vowed this month to launch a new wave of attacks to avenge the killing this month of the movement’s military chief Mullah Dadullah.
On Saturday three German soldiers with the ISAF force were killed in a suicide bombing in the small northern town of Kunduz. The Taliban said it was responsible.
The following day a suicide attack killed 10 Afghans in the eastern town of Gardez, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Kabul.
A new suicide blast struck Kabul on Wednesday, killing a policeman and wounding six Afghans and a foreigner, according to police and a witness.
The interior ministry said the attacker, who was on a motorbike, had been spotted by police and was being chased when he blew himself up “before reaching his target.”
The witness said however he had seen a motorcyclist chase an armoured vehicle of foreigners for about 100 metres and then blow himself up when one of the occupants pulled a gun on him.
The blast appeared to strike the vehicle. “I could see a man covered in blood inside the vehicle. It drove away,” said the man, who did not give his name.