Turkey has been told by the United States that Kurdish forces have withdrawn from the oil city of Kirkuk and will also pull out of the nearby city of Mosul, a Turkish government source said on Friday.
Kurdish forces swept into Kirkuk on Thursday, ringing alarm bells in Turkey, which suspects the Kurds want to claim the city as capital of an independent state. The source, speaking to Reuters after a high-level meeting of Turkish politicians and military in Ankara, also said that Turkey expected to have military observers in place in both cities later on Friday.
Meanwhile, U.S. military forces were working to cut off traffic between Iraq and Syria, which Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has accused repeatedly of helping Saddam's regime.
American special operations forces have set up roadblocks along routes to Syria and are searching for fleeing members of the Iraqi regime or fighters and equipment coming in from Syria, a military official said. U.S. aircraft were also watching the routes, and they attacked Iraqi positions near the Syrian border Thursday.
A correspondent for Al-Jazeera TV at the Syria-Iraq border said he had met Palestinian and Syrian volunteer fighters at the border who had abandoned their positions in Mosul and were returning home. The fighters said they left the northern city after their Iraqi commanders left them alone in the streets.
Monitoring the 500 km Iraqi-Syrian frontier will be a difficult task. The border is easy to cross because only areas close to official crossing points are fenced for a few kms in either direction.
Beyond the official crossing points and the Tigris River, which forms the frontier in the north, the terrain is wide open, and people cross on foot, by donkeys or four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Syrian border guards patrol in search of possible infiltrators or smugglers, who are most often sheep smugglers from Iraq into Syria.
Border points were open as usual Thursday, but no Syrians or Palestinians living in Syria have been allowed to cross into Iraq for the past four days to prevent any volunteer fighters from crossing into Iraq. Only Iraqis are allowed to cross into Iraq, as well as foreigners with valid Iraqi visas. (Albawaba.com)
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