Two Czech soldiers in Basra injured in rocket attack

A damaged car in the parking lot of the Czech base in Basra, photo:

Two soldiers from the Czech contingent in Basra, southern Iraq, were wounded after a rocket hit their section of the Basra air base early Sunday morning. The soldiers only suffered light injuries caused by shards of glass shattered by the blast. This is the second time the Czech section of the Basra air base was hit by insurgent fire since last April.

The siren of a warning system at the Basra air base in southern Iraq alerted the Czech troops just seconds before an insurgent rocket hit their section of the base. Major Jiří Hrazdil is the commander of the 4th contingent of the Czech Army deployed in Iraq.

“On Sunday, at about 6:30 AM local time, a 122 mm rocket hit our base. The rocket landed on a parking lot and its fragments damaged two of our vehicles. The following blast caused light injuries to two of our soldiers. The blast also damaged our accommodation area.”

The two soldiers suffered minor injuries to their arms and legs which were caused by glass shattered by the explosion. They were treated on the spot and will carry on with their mission in Iraq. Major Jiří Hrazdil says these rocket attacks on the ally air base in Basra, where both British and Czech troops are positioned, are frequent but usually harmless.

“Generally I would say that attacks like this happen on a daily routine. The only difference is that usually the rockets land at least several hundred metres away from our positions. The points of origin are usually in the area surrounding the city of Basra. The insurgents tend to fire from various distances from five to fifteen kilometres.”

The Czech contingent in Iraq currently consists of 99 soldiers, mostly from the 73rd Tank Battalion from Přáslavice, central Moravia. They were deployed at the Basra air base, which is operated by the British army, in January 2007, and their main task is to protect the base from ground attacks. The Sunday attack was only the second since April last year. Major Jiří Hrazdil again.

“Since the Czech contingent has been deployed to Basra, it has not sustained any injuries or casualties. We have only sustained material damage. The security situation may get worse locally at times but generally, I would say that the situation is improving.”

The Czech troops are expected to withdraw from Basra during spring this year, together with their British colleagues. After that, only 20 Czech military instructors will stay on in the city to train Iraqi military personnel.