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Kurdish rebels begin critical pullout from Turkey

Kurdish rebels have begun withdrawing from Turkey into their stronghold in northern Iraq, a pro-Kurdish lawmaker said on Wednesday, in a major step towards ending a decades-long conflict that has left tens of thousands of people dead. 

The pullout is the first visible sign that months of fragile talks between the state and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) could succeed in ending 29 years of guerrilla war. 

‘We know that they have started moving,’ Selahattin Demirtas, a pro-Kurdish lawmaker actively involved in the process, told media.

About 2,000 rebel fighters are expected to begin leaving Turkey on foot, travelling through the mountainous border zone to reach their safe havens in the inhospitable Qandil mountains in northern Iraq. 

There they will join 5,000 fellow militants at the command base which has been used as a springboard for attacks against Turkish security forces.  Ankara did not confirm the start of the pullout but Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said: ‘We are following the process closely. 

‘It is hard to say with precision what is happening at what time,’ Arinc said.
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