One Georgian soldier was killed and another badly wounded in Afghanistan - the first casualty suffered by the Georgian armed forces since joining the NATO-led operation in November, 2009.
Company commander from the 31st infantry battalion, first lieutenant Mukhran Shukvani, 28, died while on mission as a result of explosion of improvised explosive device, the Georgian Ministry of Defense said on September 5.
It also said that 25-year-old corporal Alika Gitolendia from the 31st battalion lost both of his legs in the same incident.
"We've lost one of the best servicemen of the Georgian Armed Forces and it is very hard and painful for us. The injuries of Corporal Gitolendia are also very serious,” Deputy Chief of Joint Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces, Col. Arsen Tsukhishvili said on September 5.
Georgia sent its 31st infantry battalion to Afghanistan in April, 2010 to serve alongside with the U.S. marines in the province of Helmand. With this deployment Georgia increased its military presence in Afghanistan up to 950 soldiers. Georgia first deployed a company-sized unit in Afghanistan under the French command in November, 2009.
Lt. Shukvani, who joined the Georgian armed forces in 2006, also served in Iraq, from where Georgian pulled out its 2,000 troops during the war with Russia in August, 2008.
Georgia suffered three combat fatalities and at least 19 servicemen were injured in Iraq, where Georgia first deployed its troops in August, 2003. Also in Iraq one Georgian serviceman died in a car accident and one committed suicide.
The U.S. embassy in Tbilisi expressed condolences on the death of the Georgian soldier and said in a statement on September 5: “We mourn his loss, even as we salute the ongoing dedication and sacrifice of his fellow members of the 31st Battalion.”
“The Georgian Armed Forces and the people of Georgia are making vital contributions to realizing our shared objectives under NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The United States deeply appreciates and respects Georgia's contributions, and the sacrifices that come with them. We will honor First Lt. Shukvani's memory in continuing our work to build a peaceful, stable Afghanistan,” the U.S. embassy said.