Slovak soldier killed in Iraq

A SLOVAK soldier was one of four casualties caused by the explosion of an improvised explosive device (IED) used to attack a convoy of coalition forces in Iraq during the night from Friday to Saturday in the city of Al Qut.

Private Rastislav Neplech from Žilina was serving in the Slovak peacekeeping mission stationed in Al Hillah at the time. The explosion also killed a Polish soldier and seriously wounded another Pole as well as an Armenian soldier. The wounded soldiers are now in hospital in Baghdad. The convoy was made up of 20 vehicles, ten of which were Slovak Army vehicles, four of which were US and six of which were from Salvadorian forces.

The explosion hit the third vehicle in the convoy after it passed through an intersection on a narrow street in a built-up area of the city, the SITA news agency wrote.

In response to the news from Iraq, Prime Minister Robert Fico said he considers this to be a "very, very tragic event". The Slovak government had already decided to withdraw Slovak troops from Iraq in February 2007 prior to the incident.

Defense Minister Frantisek Kašický added this was a sad event in a country where danger is a part of everyday life. The prime minister asked minister Kašický to provide financial assistance to the family of the soldier.

Private Neplech will be brought back to Slovakia in cooperation with the Polish Army and will be laid to rest with the highest military honors this week.

Neplech is the 53rd Slovak soldier who has died while serving with Slovakia’s foreign missions.

A poll carried out by the MVK agency for the Sme daily suggests that 57 percent of Slovaks support the pullout of Slovak troops from Iraq.

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