RIGA - A soldier serving in Iraq was injured March 12 in an attack on a Latvian unit. The attack came at approximately 17:40 local time while the unit was on patrol. Corporal Vladislavs Fursovs received minor injuries to his hand when a shell exploded near the Hummer military vehicle in which he was on patrol. Fursovs was sent to a nearby hospital where he received treatment and was later released. He has already been able to return to active duty.
To date, three Latvian soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Two of them 's Private First Class Gints Bleija and Private First Class Vitalijs Vasiljevs 's were killed in a roadside bomb explosion on Dec. 27, 2006.
The first Latvian death in Iraq was in June 2004, when First Lieutenant Olafs Baumanis died while clearing a minefield in the Kerbala province in central Iraq.
Agnija Strausa, press officer for the National Armed Forces, said that this was only the second attack on Latvian soldiers that has resulted in the injury of a serviceman.
"In December we had three soldiers injured, and today [March 12] this is the fourth," she said. Strausa confirmed that the injuries in December were a part of the same incident that resulted in the deaths of Bleija and Vasiljevs.
Latvian servicemen regularly encounter roadside bombs and undergo direct attacks by insurgents in Iraq. The soldiers only operate out of one base in Iraq 's located in Al Diwanyah 's but this base has come under fire numerous times in the past few months.
In late January a roadside bomb went off near a vehicle transporting Latvian troops, but no one was hurt. The Al Diwanyah base suffered mortar attacks on three occasions in February, but fortunately there were no injuries. The most recent attack was on March 3, when the base came under fire from insurgents. There are currently 124 Latvian soldiers serving in Iraq. In early January, 103 soldiers were rotated in what was probably the last deployment of Latvian troops to Iraq. Strausa said that Latvia plans to withdraw from the country in July 2007.
Immediately after receiving medical attention, Fursovs placed a call to his relatives in Latvia assuring them that he was all right.
The National Armed Forces' social support specialist, Aija Stanus, told LETA that the soldiers and their families don't show any signs of stress because of the incident.