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Bulgaria withdraws from Iraq

Date: 11.11.2008

All Bulgarian troops in Iraq will be back home by Christmas, Defence Minister Nikolai Tsonev was quoted as saying by Bulgarian-language media on November 7 2008.

According to Tsonev, the withdrawal of the 150 Bulgarian soldiers providing perimeter security at the camp Cropper prison near Baghdad, was coordinated with the US and Iraqi authorities. The mission of Bulgarian solders ends at the end of this year and there were no plans for extending it further, which means that Bulgarian participation in Iraq will be over.

The soldiers will come straight to Bulgaria and will not be transferred to Bulgarian contingent serving in Afghanistan, Tsonev said.

Bulgarian troops have been serving in Iraq since 2003 as part of the coalition forces that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime. Since then, a total of 13 Bulgarian soldiers have died in various attacks and incidents. Seven soldiers have died in battle, five in accidents and one shot dead by a friendly fire.

Two Bulgarian truck drivers working for companies serving coalition troops have been captured and killed in Iraq, with one more ambushed and killed. In addition, three Bulgarian pilots died after their Mi-17 transport helicopter shot down in April 2005. After the first attacks, Bulgaria withdrew its original contribution of about 485 soldiers in 2005. They served in Diwaniyah region.

In Afghanistan, Bulgaria has a total of 400 military personnel serving at the Kandahar airport and Kabul. Bulgaria also has soldiers in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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