BAGHDAD ø The U.S. military fears Turkey could
halt supplies of fuel and equipment to troops in northern Iraq.
U.S. officials said the abduction and execution of at least one Turkish
hostage by Sunni insurgents have sparked alarm within Turkey's government,
parliament and transport industry. They said military units in northern Iraq
rely on daily shipments of food, fuel and other supplies from neighboring
At least two truck drivers, out of eight missing Turkish nationals,
have been held hostage in Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported.
"The issue has a potential to snowball and combine with a host of other
Turkish government complaints regarding the coalition policy in northern
Iraq, particularly in connection with the PKK," an official said.
So far, Turkey's leading truckers' group has announced a halt in the
transport of cargo to U.S. military forces in Iraq. The International
Transporters Association, known by its Turkish acronym, UND, said the
suspension of deliveries began on Aug. 2.
"It is obvious that security and stability in Iraq cannot yet be
maintained," the Istanbul-based association said in a statement. "Given the
current circumstances, UND decided to stop the transport of cargo for
American troops in Iraq."
The announcement led to an immediate drop in the number of Turkish
trucks entering Iraq. CNN-Turk television station reported on Tuesday that
1,400 trucks entered Iraq through the Harbur border gate. About 2,000 trucks
a day had been using the border facility.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry, which has sent Washington a series of
warnings over deteriorating security along Turkey's southern border,
coordinated with the truckers association in its decision to withdraw from
Iraq, officials said. They said the ministry distributed the announcement by
the association of its withdrawal from Iraq to Arab satellite stations. At
the same time, several parliamentarians have called on the government of
Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to ban Turkish nationals from Iraq.
The association said Turkish cargo to the U.S. military covers up to
three percent of trade between Iraq and
Turkey. The U.S. military has also received supplies from Jordan and Kuwait.
Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi, regarded as the most lethal insurgent in Iraq,
has claimed responsibility for the execution of a Turkish national who
worked in a U.S. military base in northern Iraq. In a statement, Al
Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad Group warned that other Turkish hostages would be
killed unless Ankara withdrew its presence from Iraq.
The association's head, Cahit Soysal, said up to 300 Turkish trucks have
brought daily supplies to U.S. troops in northern Iraq. Soysal said he hoped
the withdrawal by his association would persuade Sunni insurgents in Iraq to
two other Turkish truck drivers.
Turkish truck drivers have been urged not to enter Iraq until the
abductions end. Reslan Tabur, chairman of the Association of Truck and Bus
Drivers in Gaziantep, warned truck drivers not to enter Iraq until the
Turkish military guarantees their security.
"If Turkey wants to send goods to Iraq," Tabur said, "it should
establish a secure zone near the border under the control of the Turkish
military. The Americans should make the deliveries from that zone."
Officials said they believe Al Zarqawi has been aided by Turkish
supporters of Al Qaida. They said at least one Al Zarqawi agent was heard
speaking Turkish in the video of the execution.
The Turkish news channel NTV identified the Turkish collaborator of Al
Zarqawi in the video as Habip Aktas. Aktas was said to have masterminded a
series of suicide car bombings in Istanbul in November 2003 that killed
about 65 people.
On Wednesday, Tawhid and Jihad announced it would release two Turkish
hostages amid the decision by the truckers association to withdraw from