Friday, March 04, 2005


Turkish troops deploy in Northern Iraq

The Turkish army has deployed 1357 soldiers in northern Iraq to fight Kurdish separatists, Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul has said.

Gonul, in answer to parliamentary questions, said the Turkish troops, deployed since 1992 in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, were there mainly to pursue the Kurdish separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Turkish officers in the area also act as a liaison with US troops deployed in Kirkuk, Mosul and Tal Afar, the minister added.

An estimated 5000 Kurdish separatists have taken refuge in the mountains of northern Iraq, according to Turkish authorities.

The PKK waged a bloody 15-year war for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish eastern and south-eastern parts of Turkey - claiming more than 36,000 lives - before announcing a unilateral ceasefire in 1999.

The group called off the truce in June last year, threatening to carry out attacks and warning tourists and investors to stay away from the country.

Since then, there has been a sharp increase in clashes between the rebels and Turkish government troops.