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Thu Apr 25, 2013 3:11PM
A file photo shows PKK fighters training at a base in northern Iraq.

A file photo shows PKK fighters training at a base in northern Iraq.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) says the fighters will begin a phased withdrawal in May, leaving the Turkish soil for northern Iraq as the PKK and Ankara move to end nearly three-decades of deadly fighting. "As part of ongoing preparations, the withdrawal will begin on May 8, 2013," PKK leader Murat Karayilan was quoted by the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency as saying on Thursday. Karayilan said the withdrawal was planned in phases and was aimed to be finalized as soon as possible. He also urged the Turkish Army "to act with the same sensitivity and seriousness,” warning that the Kurdish fighters will reserve themselves the right to retaliate if the withdrawing guerilla forces come under attack, and “the withdrawal will immediately stop.” Several thousand PKK forces are believed to be living in the ragged mountains in Turkey, while the group’s armed wing is based in northern Iraq. On March 21, the PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan ordered the Kurdish fighters to lay down arms and ordered a historic ceasefire following clandestine negotiations with Turkish officials. The Turkish government launched talks with him in a bid to end the 30-year-long conflict between Ankara and the Kurds that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. The Kurdistan Workers' Party embarked on an armed struggle in 1984 against the Turkish government in a bid to create an autonomous Kurdish region in the country’s Kurdish majority southeast. MRS/JR