Suicide blast kills seven Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan

Suicide blast kills seven Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan
An honor guard in Tbilisi, Georgia, salutes last month while others, unseen, carry the coffins of three Georgian servicemen killed in Afghanistan. A suicide bombing Thursday claimed the lives of six more Georgian service members in Afghanistan. (Shakh Aivazov / Associated Press)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — An insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan killed seven Georgian soldiers late Thursday, as the Afghan Taliban continues to ramp up assaults in the midst of its spring offensive against U.S.-led coalition troops.

The Georgian Defense Ministry said the soldiers were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Helmand, a southern province that has long been a Taliban stronghold. The troops had been deployed in Afghanistan since April, the ministry said in a statement. Nine Georgian soldiers were injured in the attack, but their injuries were not life-threatening.

Georgia, a former Soviet republic in the Caucasus Mountains region, is a strong ally of the U.S. and has more than 1,500 soldiers serving in Afghanistan, with most of them deployed in Helmand. The country, which for years has expressed a desire to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has the largest deployment of soldiers in Afghanistan from a non-NATO nation.

The country's Defense Ministry called the soldiers' deaths "an irreparable loss not only for their families but for the whole of Georgia."

The bombing came a month after a suicide attack killed three Georgian soldiers and injured several at their base in Helmand province.

[For the Record, 10:22 p.m. June 6: A previous version of this post said in the headline that six Georgians had died. The correct number is seven.]