Conflict & Justice

Kurdish PKK militants start withdrawal from Turkey


A Kurdish man holds up a flag of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) during Noruz spring festival in the Lebanese capital Beirut on March 21, 2012.


Joseph Eid

Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants have begun their withdrawal from southeastern Turkey toward northern Iraq's Qandil mountains as part of a peace process.

"According to the information we have received, the movement has started," Gultan Kisanak, a joint leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish party, told the Associated Press.

She gave no information on the number of PKK fighters who had started to retreat, but said the first group of rebel fighters was on the move on Wednesday.

Around 2,000 PKK members were expected to start leaving Turkey on foot, and will join another 5,000 fighters at an Iraqi command base, which has been used as a launching point for attacks against Turkey security forces.

"The withdrawals are expected to take three or four months to complete," said Selahattin Demirtas, a pro-Kurdish politician who has been part of the peace process.

More from GlobalPost: Kurdish militants begin historic Turkey withdrawal

The pullout was ordered in March by Abdullah Ocalan, the veteran PKK leader held in a Turkey prison, and is the first sign in months that has shown a possible successful end to 29 years of fighting between the state and the PKK.

More than 40,000 people have died in the three decades of fighting.

Turkish military attacked and killed some 500 during a withdrawal attempt in 1999.