Sergeant Andrzej Filipek, the most recent Polish casualty of the war in Iraq, has been buried in his hometown of Lublin.
The 31-year-old was the 22nd Polish soldier killed in the country since Poland dispatched troops there in 2003. Five Polish civilians have also died in the conflict.
Filipek died November 2 in Diwanyah when his military vehicle hit a mine. Two Polish soldiers were wounded in the blast.
Filipek was beginning his third tour in southern Iraq. He was the first Pole killed in action since Apr. 20, when 25-year-old Tomasz Jura died in a mine blast.
Defense Minister Aleksander Szczyglo and General Roman Polko, acting director of the National Security Bureau, attended Filipek’s funeral Nov. 7.
“Today Polish soldiers in Iraq, together with thousands of allies from all over the world, ae helping the weak and giving them hope of a better life,” Szczyglo said. “This difficult mission has a deep humanitarian purpose and is very important as well to the security of the country.”
Polko read a letter of condolence to the Filipek family from President Lech Kaczynski.
Poland sent its first soldiers to Iraq in June 2003. They have been serving in the south-central region under General Andrzej Tyszkiewicz. Nine hundred Polish soldiers are in Iraq – one of nine overseas missions that Polish troops are involved in. The first Polish soldier to die in Iraq was 44-year-old Major Hieronim Kupzyk on Nov. 6, 2003. He was shot after attending a reception ceremony for Polish soldiers who had just arrived in the country.
Thirteen of Poland’s 27 casualties died in one battle. Eight were killed in helicoper and car accidents. Four died in car bombings or mine blasts. Polish civilians who have died in Iraq include the famed war reporter Waldemar Milewicz, who was shot execution-style along with his photo editor Mounir Bouamrane on May 7, 2004. Two Polish employees of the American-based Blackwater private security company were killed in Iraq in June 2004.
Rzeczpospolita, one of the biggest daily newspapers in Poland, has reported that Poland will end its military presence in Iraq in the late summer of 2008.
New Prime Minister Donald Tusk has said recently that he wants to begin talks with the U.S. before the end of the year on plans to pull out the Polish troops.