The Taliban on Friday claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in southern Afghanistan that killed seven Georgians and wounded nine others.
The head of the Georgian army announced the deaths on Thursday, saying the men died in a truck bombing outside a base in the restive province of Helmand.
The Taliban, leading the 12-year insurgency against the government of President Hamid Karzai and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF), claimed the attack on their “Voice of Jihad” website.
“The attack took place at around 4:00 pm when a hero of Islamic Emirate detonated his truck laden with heavy-duty explosives inside a large ISAF base, located on the road in Angrak Karez area” in Nawzad district of Helmand province, the insurgents statement said.
The attack took the total death toll among Georgians serving with ISAF to 30.
Georgia has 1,570 troops serving in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, making the small Caucasus country of 4.5 million the largest non-NATO contributor to ISAF, according to the defense ministry.
Tblisi declared a national day of mourning on Friday and defense minister Irakli Alasania cut short a trip to Brussels to travel to Afghanistan at his prime minister’s request, a Georgian government adviser told AFP.
Alasania met his Afghan counterpart Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, the Georgian defense ministry said in a statement, and will visit troops wounded in the attack.
Around 100,000 US-led NATO troops are fighting a Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan in a conflict that began in 2001.
War-weary international forces are seeking to hand control of security to Afghan forces by withdrawing their combat troops by the end of 2014.
General Joseph Dunford, ISAF’s top commander in Afghanistan issued a statement on Friday offering condolences on the death of Georgian soldiers, saying it would not deter ISAF’s commitment to Afghanistan.
“The enemies of Afghanistan continue to use tactics like yesterday’s attack to try to slow the momentum of progress, but they will fail,” Dunford said in a statement.