Three Italian soldiers serving in Iraq were killed last week in a roadside bomb attack in the south of the country while a fourth was left seriously injured. A Romanian soldier was also killed in the
attack which took place on a road to Nassiriya, the Iraqi city where Italy’s contingent is based. The Italians, all members of Italy’s Carabinieri military police force, were travelling in a four-vehicle convoy when the bomb went off.
It was the worst attack on Italian forces serving in Iraq since November 2003, when twelve servicemen and five Carabinieri were killed in a massive car bomb in Nassiriya, which also killed two Italian civilians and nine Iraqis. A total of 29 Italian military personnel have now died in Iraq since Italy’s mission there began in June 2003. Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi expressed his ‘shock and immense sorrow’ on learning of Thursday’s attack. Pope Benedict XVI also expressed his dismay and condolences, underscoring the ‘generous and disinterested contribution of international troops to peace and freedom in Iraq’.
Italy did not take part in the US led war in Iraq but outgoing Premier Silvio Berlusconi, a staunch ally of US President George W. Bush, later sent troops for peacekeeping and reconstruction. Italy currently has 2,600 troops there and plans to withdraw them by the end of the year, with 1,000 scheduled to leave by July. Bush’s administration expressed its condolences on Thursday and at the same time urged Italy to continue its mission in Iraq.
Two Iraqi fundamentalist groups, the Imam Hussein Brigades and a group which calls itself the Islamic Army in Iraq subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack. Italian intelligence are currently examining evidence to see if the claims are credible.