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Bulgaria Sure That U.S. Killed Soldier

Bullets in victim's body armor were American-issue, defense minister says. The shooting in Iraq is blamed on poor communications.

March 10, 2005|From Reuters

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria is certain that U.S. forces killed one of its soldiers last week in a "friendly fire" accident, mainly because of poor communication, army and Defense Ministry officials said Wednesday.

Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov said spent bullets removed from rifleman Gurdi Gurdev's body armor were of U.S. issue.

"They were 7.62x51 Winchester," he said.

Results from a U.S. investigation are scheduled to be released Friday in Baghdad.

Gurdev had been sprayed with automatic weapons fire after his unit shot warning rounds to halt an Iraqi vehicle in the dark.

His death happened the same day U.S. forces killed Italian security agent Nicola Calipari, who had just secured the release of journalist Giuliana Sgrena from kidnappers in Iraq. Sgrena was wounded in the shooting.

The incidents have drawn sharp criticism from the two U.S.-allied nations, and officials from both countries have demanded that the United States punish those responsible.

But Bulgarian Army Chief of Staff Nikola Kolev took a more conciliatory tone Wednesday, saying his troops had been shown the location of U.S. units on a map, but the two sides had not established contact.

"The problem of communication was not solved," he said at a news conference.

"A meeting has been held with an American communication unit in the area and it confirmed it had fired shots at the same spot and time when the incident occurred.... These accidents happen."

Bulgaria's government, led by former King Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, is a strong supporter of the U.S.-led operations in Iraq, but roughly three- quarters of the population oppose the nation's military presence there.

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