Polish military leaving Iraq

Oct. 4, 2008 at 6:32 PM

BAGHDAD, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Poland officially ended its military mission in Iraq with a farewell ceremony Saturday at the southern base where its troops have been deployed.

U.S. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the commander of the multinational force, and Iraqi Gen. Babaker B. Shawkat Zebari, the army chief of staff, attended the ceremony at Camp Echo in Qadisiya province, The New York Times reported. Bogdan Klette, the Polish defense minister, was also there, KUNA reported.

The remaining 900 Polish soldiers will be withdrawn from Iraq during October. They will be replaced at Camp Echo by a smaller group of U.S. forces.

Polish forces have been in Iraq since 2003 with the size of its contingent numbering 2,500 at its height. Soldiers from some nearby eastern European countries were under Polish command.

The country lost 21 soldiers, most of them killed in 2004.

At least one Polish helicopter, a Soviet-era Mi-24D, was to be blown up to keep it out of the hands of insurgents, the Warsaw Business Journal reported. The other five helicopters used by Polish forces in Iraq were to be returned to Poland or transferred to Afghanistan.

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