US frees Turkish troops

The United States on Sunday released 11 Turkish soldiers whose detention in northern Iraq was threatening to snowball into a major diplomatic row, Turkish news-agency Anatolian said.

    The soldiers, who had been taken from the northern city of Sulaimaniya to Baghdad by the US troops, would remain in the Iraqi capital overnight because of security concerns and would be returned to Sulaimaniya early on Monday.

    The release followed a 30-minute telephone conversation between Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and US Vice President Dick Cheney.

    Turkey says the 11 soldiers were among 24 people detained in Sulaimaniya on Friday and whisked away to Baghdad by the US troops.

    Anatolian said US and Turkish officials had met during the day in Sulaimaniya.

    The detention fuelled anti-American feelings among Turks. Newspapers ran headlines such as "Ugly American" and said the soldiers had been treated as shabbily as al-Qaeda detainees in US custody.

    Though the US has  not yet explained the reasons behind the detentions, unofficial sources said the soldiers were taken into custody as some of them planned an attack on the interim governor of Kirkuk.

    The detentions had led to a virtual stand-off between US and Turkey, with Turkish Prime Minister insisting "it was a repungent incident that should have never happened."

    The Prime Minister also accused the US of "behaviour unworthy of two allied countries in a coalition."

    To seize the Turkish soldiers, about

    100 US soldiers had stormed the local offices of the Turkish special forces on Friday after cutting the telephone lines. 

    SOURCE: Unspecified


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