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Turkish military pull out from Iraq

The Turkish military confirms that its ground incursion into northern Iraq targeting PKK fighters has come to an end.
None | By DPA, Ankara
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2008 02:54 AM IST

The Turkish military on Friday confirmed that its ground incursion into northern Iraq targeting Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) fighters has come to an end.

The general staff said the objectives had been achieved and the soldiers were being pulled back. There was no outside pressure for Turkey to make the move, a statement added.

The news broadcaster CNN-Turk quoted Turkish military sources assaying some special units remained operating in northern Iraq.

The developments come a day after US Defence Secretary Robert Gates held talks with Turkish leaders and urged a quick end to the Turkish military operation in northern Iraq. President George W Bush also made the call in Washington at a press conference on Thursday.

A spokesman of the PKK said Friday that most Turkish troops had withdrawn from the Kurdish areas in northern Iraq.

"Large numbers of Turkish troops started already Thursday to withdraw from the Zab valley in northern Iraq," Ahmed Danis, spokesman of the PKK said.

He added that the Turkish forces left a number of troops behind in some areas of the Kurdish regions of Shamsho and Wasilo.

The online edition of the daily Hurriyet also reported about a Turkish troop withdrawal. But at the same time Kurdish sources in Iraq were cited as denying that there had been an end to the Turkish operation, which was launched on the night of Feb 21. They said operations were continuing in three regions.

Turkish media reports said the army had captured an important camp of the banned Kurdish Workers Party PKK in the Zap valley.

President of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan Massud Barzani had accused US of encouraging Turkey to invade northern Iraq, Jordanian media reported.

"Unless the US gave its green light, Turkey would not have intensively attacked northern Iraq as we have seen. Although the US set limits for the attacks, the Turks did not even abide by them," Barzani was quoted as saying in the Jordanian al-Arab newspaper.

The existence of the PKK in some mountainous regions around the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan does not mean that the Kurdish government approves their presence in the area, he added.

He said, "We still repeat that the problem can not be resolved militarily, but rather peacefully".

Turkey had launched "Operation Gunes" on the night of Feb 21, with some 10,000 soldiers sent across the border to seek out PKK rebels and their camps.

According to a statement released by the Turkish military on Wednesday, 230 PKK fighters, 24 Turkish soldiers and three state-employed village guards had been killed in the operation.

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