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Italy Honors Its Soldiers Killed in Iraq

A state funeral has been held for three Italian soldiers killed last week in Iraq by a roadside bomb. Italy's top officials attended the service in Rome.

Family and friends of three Italian soldiers killed last week in Iraq gathered inside a church in central Rome for a state funeral, while, outside a large silent crowd held Italian flags.

Government and military leaders attended the service in the packed church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri; among them, incoming Prime Minister Romano Prodi, outgoing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

The three coffins draped with Italian flags were carried past a military honor guard, and the crowd applauded as they passed into the church.

In his homily, military chaplain Monsignor Angelo Bagnasco, said the sacrifice of the three soldiers would not be in vain.

He said the heart of Italy is here and pulses for the fallen of a new vile terrorist attack. Monsignor Bagnasco read the names of the three Italians and a Romanian soldier who was also killed.

He said their lives were ended by a lightening bolt in a brutal way and in total contempt of human life as they were intent on a peace mission.

Pope Benedict sent a telegram of condolence in which he expressed condemnation of this new act of violence, adding that it creates yet another obstacle on the road to peace and recovery in Iraq.

The three Italians soldiers were killed in their vehicle when a roadside bomb exploded last Thursday in Nassiriya. Their deaths bring to 30 the number of Italians killed in Iraq.