The US military has issued an apology after soldiers accidentally stormed a factory in Bulgaria that produces processing machinery for olive oil during a training exercise last month.
US soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade had been practicing for days how to seize and secure the Cheshnegirovo decommissioned airfield in Bulgaria, training that included clearing bunkers across the airfield, according to a statement from the US Army Europe and Africa released Tuesday. During an exercise on May 11, the soldiers 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, the US military also said.
“The U.S. Army takes training seriously and prioritizes the safety of our soldiers, our allies, and civilians. We sincerely apologize to the business and its employees,” the US military said in the statement. “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.”
Video from the factory’s security cameras obtained by CNN affiliate Nova TV appears to show US troops in military gear holding guns and walking in and out of the factory as others look on.
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev condemned the incident and said he expects there will be an investigation, CNN affiliate Nova TV reported Monday.
“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,” Radev said. “The exercises with our allies on the territory of Bulgaria should contribute to building security and trust in collective defense, not breed tension.”