(AP) – Ukraine’s military experts say that the blast that killed eight Ukrainian troops in Iraq earlier this month was a terrorist act, an official said Jan. 21.

The investigators tasked with looking into the explosion “have established that the blast was a deliberate act against coalition forces that can be considered a new insurgency tactic,” Defense Ministry spokesman Andriy Lysenko said.

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Eight Ukrainian troops and one Kazakh sapper were killed while unloading unexploded aviation bombs at an ammunition dump in southern Iraq. Lysenko said that the investigators have established that the “center of the blast was under and between the bodies of two bombs” and that findings proved the ordnance was mined.

“Pieces of a time fuse, wiring and batteries were discovered … we don’t know, however, who exactly planted it,” he said. Shortly after the blast, Ukraine’s outgoing President Leonid Kuchma ordered the Foreign Ministry and top military commanders to prepare the pullout of troops by mid-2005.

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Ukraine’s 1,650 troops are the fourth-largest contingent in the U.S.-led military operation in Iraq. In all, 16 Ukrainian soldiers have died there.

President-elect Viktor Yushchenko has also promised a withdrawal from Iraq.

Ukraine initiated the withdrawal of troops from the U.N. peacekeeping contingent in Sierra Leone earlier this month after its mandate expired. The country also participates in several other peacekeeping missions including as part of the NATO-led contingent in Serbia’s southern province of Kosovo.

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