PKK sets formal withdrawal date

April 26, 2013 at 12:14 PM
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ANKARA, Turkey, April 26 (UPI) -- The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party will start a formal withdrawal from Turkish territory May 8, party leader Murat Karayilan said.

Abdullah Ocalan, jailed leader of the group known by its Kurdish initials PKK, called on militants to leave Turkish territory following discussions with government officials earlier this year.

Karayilan, the PKK military commander, said a new era would begin with the gradual withdrawal fighters starting May 8, Turkish daily newspaper Today's Zaman reports.

"This has happened thanks to major results we have obtained as a result of the unique efforts of our leader under conditions of captivity," Karayilan was quoted as saying.

The PKK began a military campaign against the government in the 1980s. The Turkish newspaper puts the death toll at around 40,000 for both sides.

Pro-Kurdish lawmakers in Turkey said this week that PKK fighters would retreat to northern Iraq where they'd receive political training.

Kurdish supporters said they were concerned that the Turkish government hasn't offered security guarantees to PKK fighters as they leave the country. Karayilan said he wanted an independent delegation observing the withdrawal, but said the PKK would claim a "legitimate right to self-defense" if attacked by Turkish forces.

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