TALLINN - Unconditional Baltic support of the U.S. effort in Iraq claimed its first victim last week when Sgt. Anders Nuiamae of the Estonian Defense Forces was killed in Baghdad while on a routine patrol assignment.
Nuiamae, 21, of the ESTPLA-8 unit was fatally injured on Feb. 28 near the market area of Abu Ghurayb by an explosion of an improvised bomb that equaled about 1 kilogram of TNT.
According to the Estonian Defense Forces, Nuiamae died immediately.
None of the remaining soldiers of the unit was injured.
Estonian army experts said the bomb, which exploded within one meter of where Nuiamae had been standing, was apparently aimed at a vehicle because it did not have a splinter effect.
In a news conference on Feb. 29, Prime Minister Juhan Parts said that Estonia would carry on with its participation in Iraq despite the first casualty and that the government still supported the planned prolongation of the Estonian mission in Iraq until next June.
Parliament was scheduled to discuss the issue next week.
In Parts' words, Nuiamae's work as a member of the ESTPLA-8 unit helped to ensure peace in Iraq and thereby strengthened the security of Estonia.
"This is an extremely painful reminder that the situation in Iraq has not yet stabilized and that joint efforts for peace by the coalition forces are well founded," Parts said.
"We can never overestimate his courage and readiness to serve Estonia as well as all states and nations who value ideals of freedom and democracy," the prime minister added.
The U.S. Embassy in Tallinn expressed its condolences to the family of Nuiamae on behalf of the American government and people.
"Andres Nuiamae fell in the service of his country while performing a globally vital mission in bringing stability to Iraq, serving side-by-side with American forces. His service contributed to achieving freedom for an oppressed people and increased security for people everywhere," read the official statement from the embassy.
After completing his obligatory military service for his country, Nuiamae joined the Scouts Battalion of the Estonian Defense Forces, serving as a sniper for over a year. Lt. Col. Artur Tiganik, commander of the Scouts Battalion, praised Nuiamae's character and skills.
"He was in the sniper squad which automatically means he was calm, balanced and diligent. Our thoughts are with the relatives of the fallen [solider]," said Tiganik.
President Arnold Ruutel was the first to sign a book of condolences opened from Feb. 29 to March 2 at the Defense Ministry. The book will be handed to Nuiamae's parents.
His parents will also receive about 128,000 euros from the state as a standard compensation equivalent to the 10-year salary of the fallen soldier and 10,000 euros of insurance money.
Estonia's ESTPLA-8 unit, the second shift of Estonian peacekeepers in Iraq, lists 32 men. The group acts under the U.S. Army First Cavalry Division and is trained to perform patrol, escort, search and guard missions. Estonia also sent a 13-man supply-processing CT-2 unit to Iraq.
Ten Estonian soldiers have been wounded in Iraq since the beginning of the mission last June. Nuiamae, however, was the first Estonian peacekeeper to die on a mission.
Apart from Iraq, 11 Estonian peacekeepers are currently deployed in Afghanistan and 22 in Kosovo.