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Aznar under fire to”urgently explain” Iraq

12 February 2004

MADRID – Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar was under fire Thursday to “urgently explain” the country’s position over Iraq following an attack in which five soldiers were injured.

It emerged Thursday that the soldiers, who were not seriously injured, were only 500 metres from their base at Diwaniyah and not considered to be in any danger.

The attack took place late on Wednesday.

It is the latest attack on Spanish troops stationed in Iraq. So far nine soldiers have been killed.

All the opposition parties have called on Aznar to “urgently explain” the situation.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, leader of the main opposition socialist PSOE party, said it was “more necessary than ever” for the prime minister to give the country an account of the Spanish involvement in the conflict.

Aznar has maintained his support for the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq throughout.

The call came as Defence Ministry sources revealed that one of the five Spanish soldiers who were injured when they were attacked as they returned to their base in Diwaniyah, Iraq, will have to take up to a month to recover.

The soldiers were not badly injured in the attack late Wednesday.

One has already been released from a medical facility, and the other four will remain hospitalised for observation over the next few hours.

Defence Ministry sources said Thursday a lieutenant would take up to a month to recover.

He sustained injuries to his left hand, eardrums, and shrapnel wounds to his upper lip.

The five, part of a security patrol from the Plus Ultra Brigade, were returning to their barracks on foot accompanied by two armoured vehicles when they were attacked.

According to the Defence Ministry, an explosive device was launched at them from a nearby building, and Iraqi police have arrested two suspects in the attack.

Spain has approximately 1,300 troops deployed in Iraq as part of the Plus Ultra Brigade. The unit is headquartered in Diwaniyah and also contains contingents from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Last year, seven secret service officers were killed in an ambush and another officer was assassinated.

In January, another officer who was shot in the head in an attack died in a military hospital in Madrid.

State funerals were accorded to all the officers who have died in the conflict.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news