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Dead Swede returns to Afghanistan base

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Dead Swede returns to Afghanistan base
19:35 CEST+02:00
A memorial service for Kenneth Wallin, the Swedish soldier who died near Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan on Saturday, is to held by Swedish forces on Sunday after the return of his body to Camp Northern Light.

Major-General Berndt Grundevik confirmed in a press conference at Armed Forces' headquarters in Stockholm on Sunday that 22-year-old Kenneth Wallin had been transferred to the Finnish-Swedish Camp Northern Lights base, where an honor guard is to attend the body.

A memorial service is due to held at the camp during Sunday evening.

Grundevik confirmed that there are plans to fly Kenneth Wallin's body home on Tuesday.

The atmosphere in the Swedish camp was described as collected but sad.

"I would characterize the mood as down, yet collected, with good prospects of continuing to tackle our mission over there, even if there are naturally a large number who are distraught," said Colonel Gustaf Fahl, head of the Swedish forces in Afghanistan.

"It is a great loss to Sweden and of course a tremendous loss for the affected family, and it is also important to highlight that there is great loss felt by the friends, comrades and colleagues of the slain soldier who remain here in Afghanistan and who continue to fulfil their mission," said defence minister Sten Tolgfors.

The Swede taken to the German field hospital in Marmal suffering from neck pain is expected to be back with his company later on Sunday.

At the time of the explosion there were five soldiers in the armoured modular vehicle (AMV). According to Grundevik the five have received bruises and are shaken but do not have any other physical injuries.

Swedish soldiers continue to remain active in the area where the blast occurred.

"They continue to salvage and patrol," said Grundevik.

During the combat the soldiers were in contact with a US attack helicopter and a model B bomber which were circling the area but were not called in as support.

"They completed a flyover and demonstrated their presence," said Grundevik.

Grundevik continued to say that the Swedes had initially reported five or ten opponents. It remains unclear who the opponents were and whether they suffered any losses.

"I do not want to speculate on the motives that are behind their actions," he said.

22-year-old Kenneth Wallin is from the Stockholm area and became the fifth Swedish soldier to lose their life in Afghanistan to date.

The attack occurred at around 4pm Swedish time, beginning when a combat vehicle 90 (CV90) came under fire. The AMV was called forward, but was then blown up.

Some 500 Swedish troops are currently posted in northern Afghanistan serving in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Swedish troops were sent to the country in early 2002, even though Sweden is officially neutral and not a member of NATO.

According to Grundevik the first preliminary study shows that the charge used against the Swedish vehicles consisted of a number of assembled anti-tank mines.

Ambulance helicopters were on site 49 minutes after the call and the injured soldier was taken to a German field hospital in Marmal. According to Grundevik's initial assessment the ambulance transport could not have conducted more expediently.

"A rescue operation was immediately on the spot. Kenneth Wallin was pronounced dead at 5.45pm," Grundevik confirmed at a press conference late on Saturday night.

Wallin came to Afghanistan in May and was due to serve there until December. He was trained at an infantry regiment in Boden.

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