9 May 2013

Rebels leaving south-eastern Turkey

11:09 am on 9 May 2013

Kurdish rebel fighters have reportedly begun leaving south-eastern Turkey for safe havens in Iraq under a ceasefire.

"We know that they have started moving," Selahattin Demirtas, a pro-Kurdish politician involved in the peace process, told AFP news agency.

The Kurdistan Workers Party announced last month a phased withdrawal to start early in May.

More than 40,000 people have died in their fight against Turkey over the past 30 years.

The PKK is believed to have up to 2000 fighters inside Turkey and the BBC reports their full withdrawal may take up to four months.

They are expected to cross the border on foot, heading for their bases in the Qandil Mountains of Iraq.

PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is in prison in Turkey, ordered the withdrawal in March as part of peace negotiations with Ankara.

PKK spokesman Bakhtiyar Dogan told Hawlati, a Kurdish newspaper, that between 200 - 500 fighters would withdraw on Wednesday.

They would, he said, leave from the Semdinli and Sirnak areas of Turkey "on three fronts".