SOFIA, Bulgaria, Jan. 2 — More than two dozen Bulgarian soldiers have refused to join a 500-member contingent heading for Iraq after attacks there in which five Bulgarian soldiers died, the chief of staff of the Bulgarian Army said Friday.
"Between 25 and 30 soldiers have declined duty, probably as a result of pressure from their families," Gen. Nikola Kolev told Bulgarian radio.
The new arrivals are scheduled to replace 480 Bulgarian troops who have served since September as part of a 9,000-strong Polish-led multinational contingent in Iraq.
The five Bulgarian soldiers who died were among 19 people killed in multiple car-bomb attacks in Karbala, about 70 miles south of Baghdad, on Saturday. They were the first casualties suffered by Bulgaria in Iraq, and the country observed a national day of mourning in their honor on Tuesday.
Members of the replacement battalion demanded on Friday that a clause be written into their contracts stipulating that they could pull out of the mission at any time and return home, the radio reported.
General Kolev said that the soldiers preparing for duty in Iraq had committed themselves "on a voluntary basis" but added that those who wished to withdraw would have to "reimburse expenses for their training for the mission and for their medical exams."