Tide of Kurdish Refugees Abandon Mountain Camps for Iraq Havens : Relief effort: Allied forces move into area that includes a summer estate of Hussein.

Share via

Increasingly confident of allied promises to protect them, Kurdish refugees abandoned perilous mountain camps for haven in northern Iraq in dramatically growing numbers Friday, U.S. officials said.

At the same time, allied troops peacefully secured new eastern areas of a sanctuary in Iraq next to the Turkish border in which no Iraqi military presence is permitted.

American, British, Dutch and French relief forces moved into the town of Amadiyah and the adjoining countryside that includes a bombed Iraqi airfield and an opulent summer estate owned by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The allies, who will be joined by Italian and Spanish brigades next week, searched the estate and left it in the hands of lightly armed Iraqi Republican Guards, U.S. officers said.


No interference from the Iraqis was reported. One American Marine died and another was wounded, however, after what the U.S. command said was a machine-gun training accident near a new refugee camp outside the town of Zakhu.

In other developments:

- The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees warned Friday that it could not guarantee the safety of Kurds who go back to northern Iraq and said refugees should not be pressured to return. Another U.N. agency, the Disaster Relief Office, expressed concern over a possible massive new outflow of Shiite Muslims from southern Iraq into Iran.

- Iran, swamped by more than 1 million Iraqi refugees, said Friday that foreign countries had sent just six tons of food--less than an ounce per refugee--in response to its appeals for help. Some of the food was rotten and had to be destroyed, the Iranians said. “Despite widespread propaganda, foreign countries have provided the refugees with little help,” Iran’s official news agency quoted Interior Minister Abdullah Nouri as saying. Health officials said 1,500 cans of fish with a production date of February, 1984, sent by an unspecified Western country, were destroyed.

- U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar expressed anger at criticism in Britain of his efforts to aid Kurdish refugees, saying Britain, France and the United States have no clear concept of what they want the world body to do. The Western allies have called on the secretary general to convince Iraq that the United Nations should send police to protect the Kurds so that allied forces can leave the region. U.N. sources said Perez de Cuellar is questioning how far the police force would be expected to go to maintain security.

- Perez de Cuellar also said he will set up a five-member commission to demarcate the postwar boundary between Iraq and Kuwait based on a 1963 agreement between the two countries that Iraq still disputes. The panel will consist of one representative each from Iraq and Kuwait and three independent experts appointed by the secretary general, one of whom will serve as chairman.

- Masoud Barzani, guerrilla commander of the Iraqi Kurds and head of the Kurdish Democratic Party, will lead the rebel delegation when political talks resume in Baghdad next week, an Iraqi newspaper reported Friday. Al Thawra, voice of Hussein’s ruling Arab Baath Socialist Party, said Barzani will be accompanied by Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, who began negotiations for Kurdish autonomy two weeks ago.


The dead U.S. Marine, not immediately identified pending notification of his family, was the first American to be killed in the massive international campaign to rescue and resettle nearly half a million Iraqis who fled into the mountains along the Turkish border after a Kurdish insurgency collapsed at the end of March.

Reassured by the allied presence, refugees have been trickling back into Iraq for most of this week. On Friday, the numbers jumped.

American officials here said at least 10,000 people left a mountain camp at Uzumlu, one of the major refugee concentrations. Other reports from the camp put the number even higher.

Relief agencies also reported departures from other camps where homeward-bound refugees left behind dirty tents, discarded second-hand clothes and mounds of garbage. The Paris-based relief group Doctors Without Borders reported that there have been 100 cases of cholera and three cholera deaths among the estimated 70,000 refugees at the border camp of Cukurca in the last week. It was the first confirmed report of the disease.

The expansion of the security zone, which now appears to stretch about 80 miles along the border, is intended to entice more refugees to return home or to new lowland centers where they can be cared for more easily than in the mountains.

Reports of misconduct by Turkish troops at the camps, carried in the British press, led Friday to the expulsion from Turkey of Robert Fisk, correspondent of the London-based newspaper the Independent.


“His existence in Turkey is no longer needed because of his prejudiced, biased and ill-intentioned reporting,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Murat Sungar said in Ankara.

Fisk was arrested Thursday night for questioning, sent back to his hotel at 4 a.m. Friday, and then taken back to police headquarters at Diyarbakir to be informed of his expulsion. He later was escorted to a commercial flight to Ankara and put on a plane for Germany. Credentials of two other Independent reporters and a photographer were also revoked, but all three had already left the country.

Fisk reported in Tuesday’s Independent that rampaging Turkish troops had looted food intended for refugees at one camp. Thirty British marines were ordered out of the region after they reportedly roughed up a Turkish official sent to the camp to investigate the report.

The Independent said it would stand by its story, which has aroused fury among Turkish officials and in the press.

“This is planned, programmed propaganda,” said Gen. Dogan Gures, Turkish chief of staff. “I’ll take journalists to the region and show them the reality.”

For three hours Friday, Turkish customs officials closed the road border with Iraq, snarling the flow of allied supplies into the haven zone.


At first it was assumed that the move was an expression of displeasure with allied forces. However, U.S. diplomats blamed it on an administration tangle caused by the enactment of new customs reporting rules for military and civilian traffic crossing the border.

U.S. officials have been aware of the changes and knew they were to become effective Friday, the diplomat said, but had not received new paperwork required for them to fill out until after the first convoys had already left for the frontiers. U.S. consular officials eventually cleared the first convoys, and traffic then flowed smoothly across the border, the diplomat said.

Times staff writer Nick B. Williams Jr. in Nicosia, Cyprus, contributed to this article.