Turkey withdraws troops from northern Iraq, military saysTurkey said today its troops had returned from northern Iraq after the biggest offensive against Kurdish separatists in the region for a decade.
The Turkish military said the withdrawal was because the army had achieved its objectives and had nothing to do with any foreign influence, despite heavy international pressure to bring a swift end to the incursion in·cur·sion
1. An aggressive entrance into foreign territory; a raid or invasion.
2. The act of entering another's territory or domain.
"We welcome this move," The Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari Hoshyar Zebari (or Hişyar Zêbarî) (born 1953) is the current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq. A Kurd originally from Aqrah, a city in Iraqi Kurdistan, Zebari holds a masters degree in sociology from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom and studied , told the Associated Press Associated Press: see news agency.
Associated Press (AP)
Cooperative news agency, the oldest and largest in the U.S. and long the largest in the world. . "The timing is good. I think the military carried out its promises" to remove Turkish troops.
Zebari said regional Iraqi authorities had informed him Turkish troops were leaving northern Iraq after crossing into the country early last week. The Turkish military targeted only rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' party Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
Militant Kurdish nationalist organization. Founded in 1978, the group sought to establish an independent Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey. (PKK PKK Player-Killer Killer (multiplayer gaming)
PKK Partiya Karker Kurdistan (Kurdistan Worker's Party)
PKK Kudistan Isci Partisi (formerly Kurdistan Workers Party, now KADEK) ), not civilians in the remote region, he added.
Turkey's announcement came a day after the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, told leaders in Ankara they should end the offensive as soon as possible.
Zebari credited the US with playing an "instrumental" role in pressing Turkey to leave.
However, US officials in Baghdad were more cautious about the Turkish withdrawal.
"We are seeing a limited portion of the troops that had entered Iraq moving back toward Turkey," a US official said. "[It's] too early to call this a withdrawal."
Turkey's political and military leaders had said the operation would continue for as long as necessary, but they had come under pressure from the US to keep the campaign as short and limited as possible.
The US president, George Bush, yesterday urged Turkey to end the incursion swiftly. Senior Turkish officials said the Bush administration and the Iraqi government gave the green light for the offensive.
The US, which considers the PKK a terrorist organisation, has supplied intelligence information to the Turkish military on PKK targets. But it fears a prolonged campaign could stoke regional instability.
Turkey's military said it killed 237 rebels in the eight-day ground offensive and suffered the loss of 24 soldiers. The PKK said it killed more than 100 Turkish troops, but did not give a figure for its own casualties.
Many Iraqi Kurds believe Turkish generals are using the presence of the PKK in Iraq as a pretext to destabilise Verb 1. destabilise - become unstable; "The economy destabilized rapidly"
change - undergo a change; become different in essence; losing one's or its original nature; "She changed completely as she grew older"; "The weather changed last night" the Kurdish autonomous area An autonomous area is an area of a country that has a degree of autonomy, or freedom from an external authority. Typically it is either geographically distinct from the country or is populated by a national minority. Countries that include autonomous areas are often federacies. . Iraqi Kurdish leaders also complain Turkish bombing has destroyed civilian infrastructure Civilian infrastructure refers to hospitals, schools, places of worship, housings, utility facilities, or the like. It is a war crime to attack civilian infrastructure. .
Nearly 40,000 people have died in fighting since 1984, when the PKK began fighting for autonomy in predominantly Kurdish south-eastern Turkey.