RIGA – The explosion that killed six sappers in Iraq earlier this week, including a Latvian officer, was due to a mortar attack and not a de-mining mission, Polish military sources announced on Wednesday.
"Beyond all doubt we must say that the death was not caused by any inappropriate actions by the sappers," General Piotr Czerwinski told a news conference in Warsaw.
"It was caused directly by a mortar attack," he added.
According to the general, survivors said they had heard the whistle of mortar shells descending shortly before the blasts, while an investigative team uncovered craters from the impact of the mortar explosions. One of these ignited the ammunition that the sappers were handling.
Latvian National Armed Forces Commander Gaidis Zeibots could neither deny nor confirm information from the Slovak defense minister that the group of sappers had died as a result of an explosion of ammunition that was being removed from an army depot in order to be neutralized.
The blast killed First Lieutenant Olafs Baumanis, bomb-defusion squad deputy commander of the Latvian contingent in Iraq, two Polish and three Slovak troops. Aanother six soldiers from different countries were injured.
Baumanis, 34, had served in the Latvian army since 1997. He had a wife and two sons in Latvia.