Norway’s Ministry of Defense has confirmed that four Norwegian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan on Sunday, nearly doubling the number of Norwegian casualties to date in a single afternoon.
Details remained sketchy Sunday night, but Norwegian military officials confirmed a report on VG Nett that the soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb while on assignment in Faryab Province, where Norway has taken special responsibility for rebuilding the area and its trying to boost its security in the northwestern portion of Afghanistan.
“It is with great sorrow that we have received word that four of our soldier colleagues have fallen in battle,” said General Bernt Iver Ferdinand Brovold, chief of the defense ministry’s operational headquarters, in a press statement Sunday night.
Brovold said that the military’s “most important job right now is to take care of the victims’ fellow soldiers. It’s clear this has affected us greatly. Our thoughts go especially to the victims’ next of kin.”
Brovold said the military wouldn’t release more information until the victims’ next of kin had been notified.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg extended his deepest sympathy to the families of the victims, “who have suffered an irreplaceable loss. My thoughts also go to the victims’ colleagues and comrades.”
Norway currently has just over 500 military personnel on duty in Afghanistan, assigned to NATO’s forces and mostly stationed at the Norwegian base in Meymaneh. Until this weekend, Norway had suffered five casualties in Afghanistan since 2004, meaning that Sunday’s losses nearly doubled the casualty rate to date.
The Defense Ministry said the four soldiers were part of the Norwegian stabilization forces based in Meymaneh, and that they drove over the roadside bomb just before 3pm Norwegian time on Sunday.
“Today Norway was hit hard,” said Defense Minister Grete Faremo on Sunday night. “The loss makes a deep impression on all of us … and reminds us of the risk we have (in Afghanistan).
“We’re doing everything in our power for the soldiers’ safety, but we can never guard ourselves completely against such losses. What happened today is a terrible reminder of that.”
June has been an especially bloody month in Afghanistan, with nearly 100 NATO soldiers killed. The Norwegian deaths were the first since January, when a Norwegian tank was also hit by a roadside bomb in Ghwormach that killed a 22-year-old soldier. In April of last year, a 30-year-old officer from Steinkjær was killed by a suicide bomber. The Taliban took responsibility for that attack.
Several Norwegian soldiers were wounded, two of them critically, in May when they were caught in a battle with insurgents. The Norwegians came under fire while on their way to a meeting with local political leaders.