Official Italian report shows rise in tumours among Balkan troops
BBC Monitoring Europe
April 10, 2006
Text of report by Marco Nese, entitled “The Defence Ministry’s Report: 158 Cases of Tumours Among the Soldiers in the Balkans” report by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera website on 5 April; subheadings as published
Rome: In Bosnia and Kosovo, 28 Italian soldiers died. They did not lose their lives in military operations, they died because they were struck by incurable illnesses during the mission in the territories of the former Yugoslavia. This appalling fact is contained in the annual report sent by the Defence Minister to parliament.
It is a document which provides a detailed account of the situation of the armed forces’ personnel. A “record of service” that was instituted for the first time by Giovanni Spadolini, when he was defence minister.
The annual “record of service” provides an update to last 31 December. As of that date, 158 cases of malignant tumours had been verified (at the end of 2004, there were 99), which caused, in fact, 28 deaths. On the basis of the medical tests, the most wide-spread diseases concern thyroid tumours (24 cases), testicular tumours (21 cases), and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, with 20 affected.
They have called it the “Balkans syndrome”, and it has always been suspected that the fatal illnesses may be connected to the notorious “depleted uranium” [preceding words in English], depleted uranium [in vernacular]. In reality, it has never been possible to attribute complete responsibility with scientific certainty to that metal, which was contained in the projectiles fired by the fighter planes during the Kosovo war. As the Pentagon has admitted, a good 11,000 of them were launched. They were fired at armoured vehicles to penetrate them, thanks to the enormous impact force of the depleted uranium.
The commission chaired by Professor Mandelli arrived at the conclusion that the number of deceased was within the national average. However, the list of the fatal illnesses and the soldiers who have died in the past five or six years has grown alarmingly longer. “Really”, said Falco Accame, who was chairman of the Defence Committee, “to trace death with certainty to the depleted uranium is impossible. But we also do not have the opposite certainty, namely that depleted uranium is innocent, unrelated to the tragic end of so many young men.”
According to experts, the “Balkans syndrome” may be brought about by a set of causes, which run from the environment in which the soldiers operate to the stress that the missions abroad entail. The Pentagon has recently recognized that the psychophysical stress of the soldiers can cause serious pathologies, they have called it “battle fatigue” [preceding words in English], stress from battle.
Whether the stress or the depleted uranium is to blame, the research, Falco Accame believes, should not be limited to the soldiers employed in Bosnia and Kosovo but should also be extended to those who operate in Albania, and especially it should start with the first Gulf War, which goes back to 1991.
“Fatal cases have been verified both among the soldiers sent at that time to Kuwait and among those sent to Somalia in 1993. In both missions, they could have had contact with depleted uranium.”
The Defence Ministry created an inquiry commission in 2000 following disturbing reports of deaths among the men sent abroad. Since then, anyone who returns from a mission is subjected to careful medical tests. So far, the examinations have been done on 65,701 soldiers who were rotated in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Source: Corriere della Sera website, Milan, in Italian 5 Apr 06