The first contingent of twenty-four Fiji soldiers has left for United Nations duty in Iraq.
Their departure yesterday took place just as news came of the death of a Fijian soldier, Private Peter Tukutukuwaqa, who was serving with the Black Watch Regiment of the British Army in Iraq.
Private Tukutukuwaqa was killed when insurgents exploded a wire-controlled bomb under his Warrior armoured vehicle north of Camp Dogwood where they are relieving US marines who have gone into the battle for Falluja.
Soldiers leaving Fiji yesterday said they were fully aware of the dangers in Iraq and were ready to face their new environment.
The twenty-four will act as personal protection officers for senior United Nations personnel who are re-establishing their mission in Iraq after evacuating it last year following a devastating car bombing.
A second group of 134 Fiji soldiers including six women will leave next week to protect the United Nations office and guard its perimeter defences.
Fiji is the only country in the world which has agreed to send troops to Iraq at the request of the United Nations.