Filipino and Thai troops start pulling out of Iraq
MANILA: Philippino and Thai troops have started pulling out of Iraq, putting behind all US requests to delay their stay to ensure law and order in the country.
Ten Philippines soldiers left their base in Iraq for neighbouring Kuwait on Friday, starting a troop pullout demanded by militants threatening to behead a Filipino truck driver, Angelo de la Cruz, the government said. “The 10 members of the humanitarian contingent began their journey out of Iraq today and will be met by the Philippine embassy officials in Kuwait, from where they will take their commercial flight for Manila,” Foreign Secretary Delia Albert said in statement.
The White House scolded the Philippines on Thursday for deciding to pull its forces from Iraq ahead of schedule to save the life of a Filipino hostage. “It’s disappointing to see a decision that sends the wrong signal to terrorists,” spokesman Scott McClellan said. “You cannot negotiate with terrorists or make a separate peace with terrorists. And we understand that they have made the decision to withdraw their 51 troops ahead of schedule.”
Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed similar sentiments, saying giving in to kidnappers only encourages them, and praising by name South Korea and Bulgaria for “not blinking and not faltering even though they are being tested mightily by kidnappings and beheadings”.
Thailand has also started withdrawing its troops from Iraq and the pullout is to be completed by September 20 as planned, the Defence Minister said on Friday.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asked the government this week to delay the troops’ departure because of the ongoing security crisis in Iraq that threatened elections in Iraq planned for January. The minister scotched any suggestions that Thailand would delay the withdrawal until after the elections in Iraq and indicated that the pullout had started on July 1.
Saudi company ends activities: A Saudi company with an Egyptian employee held hostage in Iraq confirmed on Friday it has ended all its activities to save the captive’s life.
Faisal bin Ali al-Nuheit “has ended all its activities in Iraq. The company has withdrawn all its vehicles from Iraq since on Wednesday 9pm,” said Ali Awny Ali, manager of the firm’s branch in Jubail, eastern Saudi Arabia. —Agencies