Two soldiers laid to rest, more head to Iraq

A day after the latest contingent of Latvian soldiers headed off to Iraq, the two servicemen who died just after Christmas were laid to rest in private ceremonies Jan. 4.

PFC Gints Bleija and PFC Vitālijs Vasiļevs died Dec. 27 when the Hummer vehicle in which they were riding was hit by an improvised explosive device. Three other soldiers were injured in the explosion. One of the them, 1st Lt. Ivo Vigulis, is undergoing treatment in a German hospital.

President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga and other government officials attended a service held earlier in the day Jan. 4 at St. Peter’s Church in Rīga.

The deaths cast a somber mood on the farewell ceremony for the latest contigent, Latvian media reported. A total of 103 servicemen and women headed to Iraq from the Ādaži military base in Latvial, the Ministry of Defense said.

The Latvian troops are serving as part of the multinational force overseen by Poland.

In December, the Latvian parliament extended the nation’s mission in Iraq until the end of 2007.


Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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