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Turkey Withdraws from Iraq; ‘Chemical Ali’ Execution OK’d

BY Admin  February 29, 2008 at 1:10 PM EDT

Turkish soldiers on Iraq border

The withdrawal came a day after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Turkish leaders during a visit to Ankara to end the offensive as soon as possible, reported the Associated Press.

But the Turkish military said its decision was based on its own reasoning and not outside influences.

The incursion was launched against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a group fighting for the autonomy of the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region of Turkey. The PKK took up arms against Turkey in 1984.

Turkey’s military said it killed 240 rebels and lost 27 of its own soldiers during the week of fighting, while the PKK said it killed more than 130 Turkish troops and only lost five of its own, according to Reuters. There was no way to verify either claim.

At least 200 trucks carrying Turkish troops were seen leaving the Iraqi border area and heading back into Turkey.

Iraqi authorities have said they do not support the PKK but objected to Turkey’s military incursion. On Friday, Iraq’s foreign minister said he welcomed the troops’ departure.

“The timing is good. I think the military carried out its promises” to remove Turkish troops after finishing the operations, Hoshyar Zebari told the AP in a telephone interview.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s presidential council approved the execution of Saddam Hussein’s cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, nicknamed “Chemical Ali”, within a month. Al-Majid was one of three former Saddam officials sentenced to death in June for their part in Operation Anfal that killed nearly 200,000 Kurdish civilians and guerrillas.

The two other officials were spared amid Sunni protests that they were only following orders. All three men are in U.S. custody.

Al-Majid got his nickname from ordering poison gas attacks that killed thousands. He would be the fifth former regime official hanged for alleged atrocities against Iraqis, according to the AP.