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Bulgarian Mom Blames US for Son’­s Death, Danger Remains for Iraq Contractors

July 23, 2004


( Research Service)- The mother of a Bulgarian contractor beheaded in Iraq is blaming the US for her son’s death, reports The death is only the latest in a wave of killings that is making countries involved reconsider their presence in Iraq.Interviewed on Bulgarian radio, Maria Lazova, mother of murdered driver Georgi Lazov, wept, accused the Americans, and demanded, “what are our boys still doing in Karbala?”

Bulgaria has 480 soldiers in Karbala and has been one of George Bush’s most steadfast allies throughout the quagmire. Colin Powell rushed to praise Bulgaria for keeping its troops in place, pointedly contrasting it with the Philippines. But Powell’s rhetoric was more than nauseating. According to him, “the Bulgarian government and people have remained firm” in the face of the hostage threats:

“…they would not be intimidated by kidnappers, they would not be intimidated by terrorists… they did not walk away from the challenge that they are helping us meet.”

Lazov and fellow driver Ivaylo Kepov were kidnapped on June 29 near Mosul. An Iraqi group “affiliated with al-Zarqawi” demanded that Iraqi detainees be released in exchange for the Bulgarians’ release.

Now, Bulgarian officials are trying to determine whether other remains found on Wednesday near the town of Beiji, on the Tigris River, may be those of Kepov.

As with all the other previous beheading victims, the decapitated body was found wearing an orange Abu Ghraib-style jumpsuit. Along with the still unidentified body was a head in a sack.

Contractors like Lazov and Kepov make particularly easy pickings for the kidnappers. According to the Associated Press:

“…Many of the nearly 70 people taken hostage in Iraq in recent months are truck drivers who haul cargo for private companies — work that is vital to normalizing Iraq’s postwar economy. The truckers are easy targets compared with the thousands of other foreign contractors in Iraq, many of whom work in critical service jobs with the U.S. military or on reconstruction projects.”

Considering the steadily worsening security situation in Iraq, it seems only a matter of time before other small Balkan nations suffer such unfortunate atrocities as well. Macedonia in particular, which has hundreds of contractors in Iraq and neighboring states, could prove susceptible. And a country which is ten times the size, Romania, is even more conspicuous with its 700 soldiers and contractors in Iraq.

Indeed, the contracting experience for natives of poor country is markedly different from that of “Top Gun” Americans such as this week’s Afghan vigilantes. Of the most recent hostages kidnapped, two were Kenyans, three were Indians and one an Egyptian. A third Kenyan was shown yesterday on a video broadcast together with the six others.

One of the Indians was shown protesting that “…KGL (Kuwait & Gulf Link Transport Co.) sent us by force to Iraq. Now they (the captors) have caught us. They say we are siding with America.”

After peaking in September 2003 and January 2004, the company’s stock has slid since March. While hardly news, revelations of indentured servitude among poor contractors can’t be good press for Kuwait’s largest shipping company.

Now, however, there are signs that the company may acquiesce to the kidnapper’s wishes and pull out of Iraq. An Indian report of Friday midday quoted Abu-Zaineh, the manpower planning manager for KGL, as saying “…the most important thing for KGL is that the seven people arrive in Kuwait safely and talk to their relatives, whatever that takes.”

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