Turkey withdraws troops from camp in Iraq
Turkey has withdrawn some of its soldiers from a camp in Iraq, its prime minister announced, days after Iraq had demanded that Turkish troops immediately leave Iraqi territory.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the A Haber news channel that "a group of soldiers" were pulled out due to a "military necessity." He would not elaborate, citing security reasons.
Turkey has had troops near the Islamic State group-held city of Mosul in northern Iraq since last year to help train local Kurdish and Sunni forces, but the arrival of additional troops earlier this month sparked uproar in Baghdad. Turkey subsequently halted new deployments but has refused to withdraw its soldiers.
Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency, quoting military officials, said a 10- or 12-vehicle convoy including tanks had left the Bashiqa camp and was heading toward northern Iraq. The agency did not give further details but said military officials insisted it was simply a troop "rearrangement."
It was not immediately known if the Turkish troops would return to Turkey or would be stationed in Iraq's Kurdish-controlled region.
Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi called for the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from northern Iraq in a national address on Friday night, insisting that no foreign forces are needed to fight IS in his country. He also asked the Foreign Ministry to complain to the United Nations about the presence of Turkish troops.
Turkey argued the additional troops were needed to protect its trainers from an increased IS threat against Turkish soldiers.
Atheel al-Nujaifi, former Mosul governor who established the Sunni militia camp where Turkish trainers and troops were stationed, confirmed that Turkey pulled out some troops.
"They withdrew Turkish soldiers as well as some tanks. Not all of them but some, I can't say exactly how many," he said, adding: "The Turkish trainers are still in the camp providing training."