Kurds say more U.S. troops in north Iraq

April 2, 2003 at 7:50 AM

ERBIL, Iraq, April 2 (UPI) -- A Kurdish military source told United Press International Wednesday at least 27 Iraqi troops, including six officers, surrendered to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq in a 24-hour period.

The source, from the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Masud Barzani, said the Iraqi troops turned themselves in to Pershmerga fighters near the region of Kalak on the road linking Erbil to Mosul, some 210 miles northwest of Baghdad.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said among the surrendering troops were 21 soldiers and six officers, including a lieutenant colonel, belonging to the 5th Infantry Battalion of the Iraqi army.

Kurdish forces who took the Iraqis to a military camp near Erbil, also sent leaflets to troops and officers stationed in nearby positions, encouraging them to surrender.

One of the surrendering soldiers said Iraqi positions had been heavily bombarded by U.S. and British planes in recent days, inflicting severe casualties, and that many troops were sleeping in the open to flee the bombing.

An Iraqi officer's aide said after being moved to Erbil that "the majority of soldiers preferred to surrender but feared the firing squads" led by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's youngest son, Qusay.

A top Kurdish official also said U.S. and British planes bombed Iraqi army positions Wednesday near Mosul and Kirkuk and south of Erbil in an apparent new tactic to pressure on Iraqi forces.

Adel Murad, politburo members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by Jalal Talabani, told United Press International that the airstrikes hit Iraqi positions east of Mosul, some 25 miles west of Erbil, and east of the oil center of Kirkuk.

Murad said the bombardment also targeted the Iraqi military positions in Kafri, 80 miles northeast of Baghdad.

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