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U.S. paratroopers accidentally storm Bulgarian olive oil factory in exercise

Paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, here at Aviano air Base, Italy, inadvertently stormed a civilian olive oil factory during exercises in Bulgaria, the U.S. Army said in apologizing for the incident. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army
Paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, here at Aviano air Base, Italy, inadvertently stormed a civilian olive oil factory during exercises in Bulgaria, the U.S. Army said in apologizing for the incident. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

June 2 (UPI) -- An incident in which U.S. Army soldiers inadvertently raided a Bulgarian olive oil factory during an exercise is under investigation, an Army statement said.

As part of the multinational Exercise Swift Reponse 21, paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade simulated an assault on the decommissioned Cheshnegirovo airfield on May 11, clearing bunkers and structures.

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They also "entered and cleared a building next to the airfield that they believed was part of the training area, but that was occupied by Bulgarian civilians operating a private business," a statement on Tuesday by U.S. Army Europe and Africa said.

The statement included an apology to the business and a promise to "implement rigorous procedures to clearly define our training areas and prevent this type of incident in the future."

Officials also said in the release that "no weapons were fired at any time during this interaction."

"It is inadmissible to have the lives of Bulgarian citizens disturbed and put at risk by military formations, whether Bulgarian or belonging to a foreign army," commented Bulgarian President Rumen Radev.

He added that he expects an investigation into the incident, disclosure of those officials responsible and a review of the U.S. Army's safety measures.

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"The exercises with our allies on the territory of Bulgaria should contribute to building security and trust in collective defense, not breed tension," Radev said.

Exercise Swift Response, an element of NATO's Defender Europe 21 exercises, involves forces of the United States, Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania in multiple missions across Europe.

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