Two Latvian soldiers are dead and three injured after a roadside bomb exploded next to their vehicle, the Latvian Ministry of Defense announced Dec. 27. The soldiers were on patrol.
Killed were PFC Gints Bleija and PFC Vitālijs Vasiļevs. The names of the injured were not reported.
President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga expressed her condolences to the families of the two fallen soldiers.
“They were true soldiers,” the president said in a statement released by her press office, “and, professionally fulfilling their duties, guaranteed the safety of many other people.”
The incident occurred at about 11:55 hours Latvian time, the Ministry of Defense said. The improvised explosive device also damaged the Hummer vehicle.
The two who died are the second and third Latvian soldiers to fall in Iraq. First Lt. Olafs Baumanis, 34, died in a June 2004 explosion.
Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks asked Latvians to light a candle in memory of the two soldiers.
Defense Minister Atis Slakteris also expressed his condolences.
“Hate and unmerciful fanaticism today has taken the lives of two Latvian soldiers,” he said in a statement released by the ministry’s press office. “We have to acknowledge this heavy loss, which the heart and mind refuse to accept.”
The Latvian contigent has been serving in Iraq since 2003 as part of the Polish-led international forces stationed between the American- and British-controlled zones. A total of 113 soldiers make up the contigent, according to the Ministry of Defense.
Earlier this month, the Latvian parliament extended the nation’s mission in Iraq until the end of 2007.
A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier who was born in Latvia died in August 2004 during combat in Iraq. Capt. Michael Yury Tarlavsky, 30, was based at Fort Campbell, Ky.
An Estonian soldier died in Iraq in February 2004.
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