The U.S. military plans to use trucks and helicopters to move up to 200,000 Kurds out of squalid refugee camps this week, allied military officers said Monday.
U.S. Army Maj. Jay Garner said the military would use dozens of rented Iraqi trucks as well as helicopters to transport from camps along the Turkish border."We're urging them to come down the mountain. We're telling them the zone is secure," he told reporters in the northern town of Zakho.
Some refugees will walk, he said. U.S. Special Forces automotive teams also will be sent to the border to fix stranded refugee vehicles and to provide gasoline, he said. The transport plan is known as Operation Gallant Provider.
About 125,000 refugees will be moved to the Zakho area, 65,000 will be taken to Sirsenk and 6,500 will be sent to Suriya, Garner said. The refugees may head back to their own homes or stay in camps built by the allies.
One source said the refugees would be moved from camps at Uzumlu and Isikveren in Turkey and the Iraqi border town of Kanimasi, where thousands of Kurds have stopped en route home.
Between 450,000 and 800,000 Kurds fled to the mountains separating Iraq and Turkey in March to escape Saddam Hussein's crackdown on the Kurdish rebellion that followed the gulf war. Some 1.5 million went to the Iranian border. Thousands of refugees have died. An estimated 30,000 have returned home, most after allied troops moved into northern Iraq to protect them.
Meanwhile, in other developments:
- U.N. spokesman Majed Fayad said in Kuwait City on Monday that United Nations peacekeepers are fully deployed at 15 observation posts along the 120-mile-long Iraq-Kuwait border. And Army Lt. Col. John Kalb said 2,400 U.S. troops from the 3rd Armored Division - the last American troops in southern Iraq - would withdraw Tuesday. The Americans have been policing the area and operating refugee camps since Iraq's defeat in the war.
-Ron Waldman of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said cholera has been confirmed at the Cukurca camp in Turkey, but officials weren't certain of how many refugees have died of the disease.
-Australia will send a 70-member medical relief team to northern Iraq to help Kurdish refugees, Defense Minister Robert Ray said. They are expected to leave Friday to join British units around Zakho.
-Iraq lifted censorship rules imposed on foreign journalists at the start of the war. The government said censorship was no longer necessary.