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Japan completes Iraq withdrawal

TOKYO, July 19 (UPI) -- Japan's final contingent of 220 Ground Self-Defense Force troops evacuating Iraq arrived at Kuwait's Ali Al Salem Air Base Monday.

The contingent was the last of Japan's 600-man Ground Self-Defense Force group to leave Iraq. Tokyo sent the force to southern Iraq in January 2004 on a humanitarian mission to help rebuild the country.

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The withdrawal was completed without incident.

The Daily Yomiuri reported Wednesday that the troops arrived at the Ali Al Salem Air Base from Samawah at 1:35 p.m. aboard an Air Self-Defense Force Lockheed Martin C-130 transport.

Following health checks in Kuwait, the GSDF troops will be returned to Japan by the end of July.

About 200 Japanese Air Self Defense Force troops, who had assisted in transporting the GSDF mission, will remain in Kuwait to assist in transporting supplies for the U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq.

The GSDF was deployed in a law passed by the Japanese government on special measures concerning the reconstruction of post-war Iraq. The GSDF troops provided humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in Samawah, in Muthanna province, but were prohibited from engaging in combat operations.

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