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Kurdish militants reported leaving Turkey for Iraq

  |   May 9, 2013 at 9:59 AM
ANKARA, Turkey, May 9 (UPI) -- Militants with the Kurdistan Workers' Party have begun withdrawing from Turkey in a settlement process designed to bring peace to the country, officials say.

Members of the organization, known as the PKK, began leaving villages in southeastern provinces of Turkey for Kurdish camps in northern Iraq, Today's Zaman reported Wednesday.

Murat Karayilan, chief of the PKK's armed wing, announced in late April that militants would lay down their arms and leave Turkey on May 8. There was no immediate confirmation the group had left their weapons behind as they departed.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) is monitoring the withdrawal. However, he said Wednesday "we don't have any information for the time being to show that the withdrawal has begun and say, here are the images."

A PKK statement released Tuesday said a "first group" of militants would leave Turkey on Wednesday despite what it called "provocative" acts by Turkey, including the construction of military border posts, reconnaissance flights and the mobilization of troops.

The PKK has been named a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. It claims about 3,500 fighters in Turkey, with an equal number in Iraq.

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