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News ::
Saddam seen creating northern buffer zone following expulsions along Iraqi-Kurdi (english)
31 Jan 2003
GUSHTAPA, Arab ocupied Kurdistan- The sudden expulsion of families from a 30-kilometer (20 mile) border strip between the autonomous Kurdish north and the rest of Iraq has led to speculation that President Saddam Hussein is clearing a buffer zone to defend against a US invasion from the north.
Saddam seen creating northern buffer zone following expulsions along Iraqi-Kurdish border

GUSHTAPA, Arab ocupied Kurdistan- The sudden expulsion of families from a 30-kilometer (20 mile) border strip between the autonomous Kurdish north and the rest of Iraq has led to speculation that President Saddam Hussein is clearing a buffer zone to defend against a US invasion from the north.

Within the last 10 to 15 days, as the possibility of a US attack increases, Baghada has reportedly moved forces of the Mujahedeen Khalq - a militant Iranian opposition group under Saddam's control - near the boundary with the Kurdish zone, said Rasool Razgai, an official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

"It seems like they're clearing a buffer zone," says Fawzi Hariri, a KDP spokesman. "It may be a new method or strategy, and it could well be part of a military maneuver."

The KDP governs the northwest section of the self-rule area set up by oppressed Kurds after the 1991 Gulf War. The autonomous region operates under the protection of US-British warplanes that patrol a northern flight exclusion zone.

The United States, which believes Saddam possesses banned weapons despite Baghdad's denials, is threatening to disarm Saddam by force and wants neighboring Turkey to agree to accept US troops on its soil.

Privately owned Turkish television station NTV reported Wednesday that if Turkey does not permit American troops to use its bases, the United States plans to airlift troops to the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. And recent activity of newly reopened Harir air base in the autonomous region 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the town of Irbil, has led to speculation it is being readied for American troops.

Tensions along the border between Baghdad-controlled Iraq and Kurdish Iraq have increased. Stretches along the frontier have become perilous no-man's lands where few dare tread. Most fear being snatched by Baghdad's soldiers, who make incursions across the front into the area.

Kurdish Ministry of Interior officials estimated that 50 Kurdish families living near the border zone have been forcibly expelled in the past two weeks.

Villagers who were hustled out of their homes in the border region near Irbil, 320 kilometers (200 miles) north of Baghdad, say they were ordered to move deeper into Baghdad-controlled Iraq and managed to slip into the Gushtapa area in the Kurdish zone only after bribing Iraqi officials.

Among them was the family of Goli Gerdi Amin, a 40-year-old mother of five who wept as she described how her family was turned out of its home in Makhshooma, 25 kilometers (15 miles) southeast of Irbil, where they herded sheep and goats and did some planting. "We had everything over there," she said, as she sat in a rudimentary apartment the family is renting for dlrs US$12 a month.

"We had a very comfortable and good life."

Five Iraqi soldiers went to her house Jan. 16 just before the evening call-to-prayer. They were ordered outside as helicopters flew overhead. The family was told that they must leave and head toward the Iraqi city of Kirkuk because their farm lay within the no-man's land, that delineates the Kurdish and Baghdad-controlled parts of Iraq.
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