TALLINN - An Estonian soldier, Master Sergeant Allain Tikko, died while on duty in Afghanistan, paying the ultimate price for Estonia's involvement in the conflict.
Tikko, a squad leader with the infantry company ESTCOY- 8, died on June 15 when his unit ran into an ambush in the Nad-e-Ali area in the southern province of Helmand, the Ministry told reporters in Tallinn.
President Ilves paid tribute to the fallen soldier. "I bow my head in deep mourning in memory of Allain Tikko, an Estonian soldier that has fallen in battle."
"Warrant Officer Tikko, who previously served on three foreign missions, was a professional and brave soldier, a reliable comrade-in-arms for his fellow soldiers. It is unfair and disconsolately painful that we now remember him, a 30-year-old man, with thoughts of bereavement," the president wrote in a letter to the family.
"Perhaps, along with words of consolation, you can find strength in the knowledge that although Allain died far from home, he was protecting the security of Estonia as a NATO ally. Allain Tikko died for Estonia."
In a joint statement, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo, and Foreign Minister Urmas Paet also expressed their condolences.
"It was with deep sadness that we received the news this morning of the loss of a brave Estonian soldier, Master Sergeant Allain Tikko, in Afghanistan, along with the injury of three other soldiers. Allain Tikko was a courageous and capable fighter, always trustworthy to his companions; he was a good father and friend," the statement said.
The statement went on to defend the country's continued presence in the conflict. "Estonia's contribution in making Afghanistan a safer place is our contribution to the common security that is shared by all NATO member statesâ€¦ What happened this morning [does not] diminish Estonia's firm desire to continue in the Afghanistan mission. We have taken upon ourselves the complicated assignment of making life safer for the people of one of the world's most dangerous regions," the statement said.
Tikko joined the Estonian army in 1998 and had also previously served at the field missions in Kosovo in 2003 and in Iraq in 2004. He was on his second tour in Afghanistan following an earlier mission in 2007.
Estonia currently has 150 soldiers serving in Afghanistan.
News of progress in Afghanistan is somewhat vague. The U.S.A. has ratcheted up its presence there, but to date strategic goals and timelines for the mission are unclear.
In order to assure its credentials as good partners to the Western Alliance, Estonia has been active in its commitment by contributing to the NATO led missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Front line roles in Iraq 's from which Estonia has already pulled the majority of its troops 's and now in Afghanistan no doubt confirm Estonia's place at the table of the democratic world community.