A Japanese soldier waves signal flags as they leave their camp in Samawa, 270 km (160 miles) south of Baghdad, June 25, 2006. (Mohammed Ameen - IRAQ/Reuters)
Japanese forces start leaving Iraq base
Transport trucks carrying armoured vehicles left the Japanese military base in
southern Iraq on Sunday in one of the first signs that Japan has begun its promised
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced last Tuesday that Japan would withdraw
its roughly 550 soldiers, engaged in reconstruction and humanitarian work, from
their base in Samawa in the southern province of Muthanna.
Reuters journalists saw at least 15 transporters leave the base carrying armoured
personnel carriers and other vehicles. At least one Japanese armoured vehicle
also drove out of the base under its own power, apparently escorting the convoy.
There was no immediate comment from Japanese officials but a spokesman for
the British-led force policing southern Iraq said there would be such withdrawals
from the Samawa base.
"You can expect to see the movement of equipment" in the coming weeks,
British Major Sebastian Muntz said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday his forces would take over
security from July in Muthanna, where the British oversee a multinational contingent
that includes Japanese and Australian troops.
"It will be some time before the camp is in a condition to be handed over
to the Iraqis," Muntz said.
The pullout of the troops ends the Japanese military's riskiest and most ambitious
overseas mission since World War Two. No Japanese soldiers have been killed
or wounded in Iraq.
Japan has said its withdrawal from Samawa would be coordinated with Britain
and Australia, whose troops provide security for the Japanese soldiers. Japan's
Kyodo news agency said the process could be completed by the end of July.
link : http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/MAC529375.htm
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