A SPANISH soldier, Sergeant Joaquin Moya Espejo died last Sunday in Afghanistan after he was shot by an insurgent.
The 35-year-old from Cordoba, who was married with one son, had arrived in Afghanistan only one month earlier.
The Spanish infantry unit to which he belonged was on a training exercise, instructing Afghan troops near Ludina in Badghis province at the time of the attack.
Sergeant Moya was wearing a bulletproof vest but was shot by a sniper from a distance of between 600 and 800 metres, army sources said. He was immediately evacuated by a US army helicopter but died on his way to hospital in Bala Murghab.
Defence minister Carme Chacon flew to Afghanistan for the funeral service held at the Spanish base in Herat before Sergeant Moya’s body was flown back to Spain aboard an air force plane.
Spanish troops would hand over military control of two districts in Badhgis province to the Afghan authorities by the end of the year, Chacon announced. But although the mission might be coming to a close its dangers had not been reduced, the minister said.
The sergeant was the first member of Spain’s armed forces to be killed by a Taliban bullet since Spain joined the Nato mission in January 2002, although with Moya’s death total losses have now reached 98.
Seventy-nine members of Spain’s military lost their lives in plane and helicopter crashes and 14 were killed by insurgents, including 12 attacks with improvised explosive devices planted by the Taliban. Two soldiers died in traffic accidents people and another two died of natural causes.