Turkey's PM: Some Turkish Soldiers Allegedly Detained by US in Iraq Have Been Freed
05 Jul 2003, 15:29 UTC
Turkey's prime minister says some of the 11 Turkish soldiers Ankara says U.S. troops detained in northern Iraq have been freed.
Details remain sketchy of the raid Turkish authorities say was carried out Friday by U.S. troops against Turkish special forces based in the province of Sulaiymaniyah, in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.
U.S. officials in Ankara said they were unaware of the incident.
Media reports in the country said some 100 U.S. troops moved against the Turkish special forces to prevent them from carrying out an attack against a Kurdish regional governor. But Turkish officials denied such an attack had been planned.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday described the reported detention of Turkish troops as an ugly act by the United States.
Turkey's deputy chief of general staff, General Yasar Buyukanit, said Turkey could not, as he put it, understand America's aims.
Turkish officials say Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul spoke to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday, seeking clarification about the reported raid. They said Mr. Powell had pledged to look into the affair, but had yet to provide a response.
Several thousands Turkish troops have been stationed in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq since the end of the 1991 Gulf War, to hunt down Turkish Kurd separatist rebels based in the mountainous enclave.
Turkey fears that the Iraqi Kurds are seeking to create an independent state with the help of the United States.
Relations between Washington and NATO ally Turkey have been in decline since before the U.S.-led war that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Turkey's parliament refused to allow U.S. troops to use Turkish soil to open a second front against Saddam's forces in northern Iraq, infuriating U.S. officials at the time.