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6 May, 2008 18:13

Georgia grieves loss of two servicemen in Iraq

The bodies of two Georgian peacekeepers who died in a car bombing in Iraq have been returned home. The two are the first Georgian victims since the country sent troops there in 2002.

Lieutenant Giorgi Margiyev and Corporal Zurab Gvenetadze were killed last Friday, May 2, when their car hit a bomb while on patrol outside Baghdad.

Full military honours greeted the bodies of the servicemen at Tbilisi airport. Along with a military guard, ministers and foreign ambassadors were in attendance.

“Our boys have laid down their lives. I hope that, if it is ever needed, Americans will do the same for us,” said one of the soldiers' relatives.

Last summer, Georgia increased its presence in Iraq to 2000 troops, making it the third largest contingent.

Batu Kutelia, Georgia’s Deputy Defence Minister, said: “The government will take patronage of the funeral procedures and the families will receive a significant amount of compensation”.

Nana Kobakhidze, niece of Zurab Gvenetadze, said she called her uncle three days before his death.

“I asked him if he was still glad he went to Iraq. He said 'it's my job, and my duty to my country'. This is how he felt and this is how he lived his life,” she said.

The death of the two servicemen has shocked the country. It’s added to the controversy of Georgia’s decision to deploy troops in Iraq. With thousands of soldiers still serving there, and more likely to be sent to Afghanistan soon, the fear is that this tragedy is one that is destined to be repeated.