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Spanish Soldiers Mourned

From Associated Press

The coffins of 17 Spanish soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan were surrounded by mourners Saturday during an emotional state funeral at the army headquarters.

King Juan Carlos I, who attended the funeral along with other members of the royal family, helped Sgt. Susana Perez Torres place a medal on the flag-draped coffin of her husband, Sgt. Alfredo Francisco Joga, who was killed in Tuesday’s crash.

The soldiers were part of the NATO-led security force preparing for next month’s elections in Afghanistan, and their deaths were the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s single largest loss of life there.

Spain declared two days of national mourning after the bodies arrived Thursday evening.

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A second Spanish helicopter flying alongside at the time of the accident had to make an emergency landing, injuring five soldiers aboard. The Defense Ministry said Saturday that four had been released from the hospital.

Investigators have so far found no evidence that the helicopter was downed by hostile fire. Spain has about 800 troops in Afghanistan. In contrast to Spain’s now-ended participation in Iraq, the deployment of troops in Afghanistan has not been controversial among Spaniards.


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