SOFIA - A US defence contractor killed in a blast in Bulgaria last week was working for a programme to train and equip Syrian rebels fighting against Islamic State, US officials said Wednesday.

The American died when a rocket-propelled grenade misfired at a military range in Anevo in central Bulgaria on Saturday. Two other US defence contractors were also badly injured in the explosion.

“The defence contractors are employees of the company Purple Shov at the request of US Central Command, to support the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-Syria,” the US embassy in Sofia said in a statement.

It specified that CJIATF-S is the organisation tasked to administer the US Coalition Syria Train and Equip programme aimed at training moderate Syrian opposition fighters to battle IS.

slamic State. “The three contractors were conducting familiarisation training for other company employees,” it added. Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for Purple Shovel declined to comment on the incident. The two US contractors who survived the blast were taken to a US military hospital in Germany.