BELGRADE/KABUL (Reuters) - A Croatian soldier serving in Afghanistan died and two were seriously injured in a suicide attack on their convoy outside the capital of Kabul on Wednesday, authorities said.
It was the first Croatian fatality in Afghanistan since the former Yugoslav republic and NATO member deployed troops there in 2003.
Wednesday’s attack, claimed by Taliban militants, came as United States and Taliban officials prepare to hold an eighth round of peace talks in Qatar this week, in a bid to end the 18-year-old Afghan war.
The soldiers were en route to Kabul airport when a motorcycle carrying a suicide bomber slammed into one of their vehicles, Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krsticevic told a news conference in Zagreb.
One of the soldiers, identified as Josip Briski, suffered serious head injuries in the blast and later died in the U.S.-operated military hospital at Bagram airfield, the defence ministry and presidency said in statements.
“The serviceman received the maximum medical assistance at the hospital in Bagram ... but he died due to the severity of his injuries,” the ministry said.
Krsticevic said the other two servicemen, who received arm and leg injuries, were stable. “It was an isolated attack and all other members of the Croatian contingent are safe,” he added.
The three soldiers were part of Croatia’s 23-strong advisory team, which is under British command and is tasked with training Afghan police.
About 20,000 foreign troops, most of them American, are in Afghanistan as part of the U.S.-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces. Some U.S. forces carry out counter-terrorism operations.
In Kabul, officials said Taliban fighters blew up a military vehicle carrying foreign forces, killing one and injuring at least three of them.
“(An) explosion hit a foreign forces convoy in Tarakhel area on Kabul-Jalalabad road,” Kabul police spokesman Ferdous Faramarz said, as the interior ministry confirmed at least three foreign soldiers were injured.
Benjamin Burbank, a spokesman of the NATO-led Resolute Support in Kabul, said a member of the coalition forces succumbed to wounds after one of its vehicles was hit by an explosive device.
He gave no details, withholding the name and nationality of the deceased until the next of kin were notified.
At the Qatar talks, both sides are expected to finalise an agreement on Taliban demands for the withdrawal of foreign troops, most of them American, and a U.S. demand for an end to militant attacks plotted from Afghan soil.
Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Additional reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Rupam Jain in KABUL; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Clarence Fernande