Home Dutch News Dutch soldier dies in grenade attack in Iraq

Dutch soldier dies in grenade attack in Iraq

Published on 11/05/2004

11 May 2004

AMSTERDAM — A 36-year-old Dutch sergeant was killed in a hand grenade attack in the Iraqi city As Samawah on Monday. The attack comes as the Dutch Cabinet is due to decide on whether to extend the peacekeeping mission in southern Iraq.

Two people have been arrested by local police investigating the incident.

The attack took place at 7.50pm Dutch time and a second Dutch soldier was also injured, news agency ANP reported. The 20-year-old soldier’s injuries were not life threatening and he is in a stable condition. He has had contact with his family.

The Defence Ministry said several grenades were thrown at a patrol of Dutch troops on a bridge over the Euphrates River. Two soldiers were injured — one seriously — and were taken to the Dutch field hospital at Camp Smitty, the Dutch base in As Samawah.

The seriously injured man later died from his wounds and his family has been informed of his death. He was part of the 11th airborne brigade, but his full identity has not been released.

It also remains unclear who was responsible for the attack. Witnesses claim to have heard two explosions, but varying reports have said that the explosives were thrown either from a bike or a car.

There are presently about 1,260 Dutch troops maintaining security in the thinly-populated, desert Iraqi province Al Muthanna. Monday’s attack was the first death of a Dutch soldier in Iraq.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende reacted with dismay: “The thoughts and sympathy go out to surviving relatives of the victim”. He also said the victim had gone to Iraq as a symbol of hope and future for a large majority of the Iraqis.

The prime minister is abroad, but will return early to the Netherlands, the Government Information Service (RVD) said. Defence Minister Henk Kamp will also return early from a trip to Romania and will arrive in The Hague later on Tuesday.

Dutch troops have met with increasing violence in recent weeks in Iraq as Camp Smitty came under mortar attack last in April. A second mortar attack was also reported at Ar Rumaytah on the night of 29 April, but no injuries were reported in both incidents.

Two Iraqis were killed in recent clashes with Dutch troops at roadside security checkpoints and the number of security patrols has been increased.

The chairman of the military union AFMP, Wim van den Burg, said the Netherlands should prepare itself for more victims in coming months. He said as unrest in Iraq intensified, the chance of Dutch deaths or injuries also increased.

The Dutch have patrolled a relatively peaceful part of Iraq in comparison with the violence in Baghdad, Falluja and Najaf, but Van den Burg said “it is naïve to think that Dutch soldiers will remain safe from risk.”

He also said that Dutch troops had escaped several recent incidents, but their luck appeared to have run out. He said it was too early to call for the withdrawal of Dutch troops out of Iraq, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.

The rising violence will play an integral role in the Cabinet’s decision on whether to extend the peacekeeping mission. A decision is expected at the earliest this week or mid-June at the latest.

Minister Kamp is thinking along the lines of a four or eight month extension, which will keep Dutch troops in Iraq beyond the planned June 30 transfer of power to the Iraqis.

But doubt has been expressed about the mission in the Lower House of the Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.

Main opposition party Labour PvdA is calling for the United Nations to take command in Iraq, while government party Democrat D66 is considering voting against the mission’s extension. The Liberal VVD is asserting that the Dutch must not yield to terror.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news