Army officials late Tuesday admitted that U.S. soldiers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade mistakenly raided a private business in Bulgaria last month during a training exercise.
The Army did not offer details on the business, but the building raided by U.S. troops reportedly housed an olive oil factory.
The facility is near Bulgaria’s decommissioned Cheshnegirovo airfield, which was being used by soldiers during the Army’s “Exercise Swift Response 21” set of training exercises.
“During the course of this exercise, soldiers simulated entering and clearing multiple bunkers and structures across the airfield,” U.S. Army Europe and Africa said in a statement. “On May 11, soldiers 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. No weapons were fired at any time during this interaction.”
“The U.S. Army takes training seriously and prioritizes the safety of our soldiers, our allies, and civilians,” the Army said in its statement. “We sincerely apologize to the business and its employees. We always learn from these exercises and are fully investigating the cause of this mistake. We will implement rigorous procedures to clearly define our training areas and prevent this type of incident in the future.”
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev condemned the accidental raid and said he expects a full investigation.
“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,” Mr. Radev said, according to the Bulgarian news website Novinite.com.
“The exercises with our allies on the territory of Bulgaria should contribute to building security and trust in collective defence, not breed tension,” the Bulgarian president said.