Bulgaria mourns its dead soldiers
Thousands of people in Bulgaria have been paying their last respects to five soldiers killed in Saturday's attacks in the Iraqi city of Karbala.
The bodies were brought back on Monday night, and they have been lying in state in the capital, Sofia. Flags are flying at half mast as Bulgaria is observing a national day of mourning for the dead servicemen.
They were among 19 killed and some 200 wounded in the bomb and mortar attacks in Karbala, 110 km south of Baghdad. The bodies of the five soldiers will later be taken to their home towns for burial.
The deaths have shocked the nation, the BBC's Nick Thorpe says. Television and radio programmes were interrupted by the news and media coverage has been dominated by the fate of the dead and injured, our correspondent says.
In addition to those killed, 26 other Bulgarian soldiers - serving under Polish command in the country - were also wounded in an apparently co-ordinated series of attacks on two military bases and the district governor's office in Karbala. But the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, has insisted his country would keep its contingent in Iraq as a matter "of principle".
Thousands of people - including government officials, members of parliament and foreign dignitaries - attended the commemorative ceremony in Sofia's Central Military Club on Tuesday.
They placed flowers and bowed before the five coffins draped in the white, green and red - the colours of the Bulgarian national flag. Among the mourners were family members, friends and fellow soldiers - many of whom wept in the cold as they queued up in front of the coffins.
Speaking at the ceremony , Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov said the deaths demonstrated that there could be no notion of safety for the Bulgarians there. "Today we are parting with the idea of the safe presence of the Bulgarian soldiers in Iraq. This is war, a real war," the president said.
Despite the deaths, top Bulgarian officials underlined their commitment to keeping troops in Iraq.
"Bulgaria's foreign policy will not be changed - on the contrary, such incidents could only stimulate us to be even more active in the fight against terrorism," Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi told the BBC.
"The terrorists may kill any one of us but they will not kill our cause," Mr Pasi added. But some commentators have sounded a more critical note. One paper noted in a headline that Bulgarian soldiers are risking their lives in Iraq to earn $60 a day. All are volunteers and there has been some speculation about soldiers due to go to Iraq in the new year pulling out of the new contingent.