The owner of the Bulgarian factory has filed a lawsuit in response to the unintentional raid.

By Jelisa Castrodale
June 03, 2021
bottles of sunflower oil in a factory
Credit: Getty Images / iStockphoto

Last month, American soldiers who were doing training exercises on a Bulgarian airfield mistakenly left the Cheshnegirovo Air Base, and efficiently maneuvered their way into the building next door. That might not have been a problem if the place had been as empty as the structures that they'd been practicing in—but it wasn't. 

Instead, several armed members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade accidentally terrified the workers at a small sunflower oil factory, people who were just doing their jobs and had no idea why a group of armed soldiers were there in the middle of their workday. According to the Associated Press, the factory's owner, Marin Dimitrov, has filed a lawsuit in response to the incident. 

U.S. Army Europe and Africa has since released a statement, and confirmed that "no weapons were fired" at any time during this accidental factory invasion. "The U.S. Army takes training seriously and prioritizes the safety of our soldiers, our allies, and civilians," the statement read. "We sincerely apologize to the business and its employees. 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." 

Marin Dimitrov's son, Bozhidar, told CNN that the military has conducted its training exercises at the nearby base for more than a decade, and there has never been a situation like this before. "We don't have anything against the activities, about training, but the problem was that no one asked us if it was OK to enter," Bozhidar said. "We just needed to know that it was going to happen so that we can warn our workers and to avoid this threat to them." 

The elder Dimitrov said that seven soldiers "with pointed guns" came into the factory about 1:30 in the afternoon. "First they saw two people and told them, 'Sit down, sit down.' And the people, what can they do? They got scared and sat down where they could, while [the soldiers] continued on with their assignment," he said.  

The military personnel were reportedly in the building for somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes, before they left and returned to the air base where they were supposed to be doing this kind of thing. After reviewing the security footage, Marin Dimitrov talked to an attorney and has since filed a formal complaint against those involved. 

Bulgarian president Rumen Radev called the incident "absolutely unacceptable" due to the potential risk to Bulgarian civilians. "Exercises in Bulgarian territory involving our Allies should boost the sense of security and trust in collective defense, instead of causing tension among Bulgarians," he said. 

Neither Marin nor Bozhidar Dimitrov were at the factory when this all went down, and it must have looked even more unbelievable when they watched the footage from their security cameras. "It was kind of like in a movie, something that I had seen in the movies and didn't expect to happen in real life," Bozhidar told CNN. "My main concern was to see if any one of the workers was OK. So I tried to calm, because you know not to freak out."