Published April 24, 2003
NEW YORK – American forces caught a Turkish special forces team trying to sneak into the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, Time magazine reported Thursday on its Web site.
The magazine reported that a dozen Turkish soldiers, dressed in civilian clothes and trailing an aid convoy, were detained Wednesday by the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade.
Col. Bill Mayville, the brigade commander, was quoted as telling Time that he believed the Turkish team was sent in to inflame local ethnic Turks, who already have tense relations with the city's Kurds and Arabs.
"They did not come here with a pure heart," Mayville was quoted as saying. "Their objective is to create an environment that can be used by Turkey to send a large peacekeeping force into Kirkuk."
U.S. Central Command heard reports of the alleged detention of Turkish forces entering Kirkuk and was looking into them, Lt. Cmdr. Charles Owens told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The magazine reported the Turkish team put up no resistance when they were stopped at a checkpoint. Time said the Turks carried AK-47s, grenades, body armor and night-vision goggles in their cars.
Turkey, worried about its own large Kurdish population and concern about Kurds in northern Iraq making a bid for an independent state, earlier sent military observers to Kirkuk, and threatened to send troops to northern Iraq if Kurdish militiamen don't fully withdraw.
Turkey fought Kurdish guerrillas for 15 years in mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey.