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Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
Denmark ends secret Iraq airlift
Danish aircraft carrying Iraqi evacuees
The Iraqi evacuees are expected to be given asylum in Denmark
Denmark has completed the evacuation of some 200 Iraqis who it feared faced danger for their association with Danish troops in southern Iraq.

A final group of 80 Iraqis has arrived in Denmark, joining 120 already there.

The airlift of the Iraqis, including translators for Danish troops, had so far been kept secret for security reasons, a Danish official said.

Denmark is expected to withdraw its group of 480 troops from Basra in southern Iraq next month.

Militants fighting US-led forces regard as traitors any Iraqis who work with foreign troops.

The family members of these Iraqis have also been targeted in militant attacks.

Heated debate

Most of the 200 evacuated Iraqis are expected to be offered asylum in Denmark.

Iraqi interpreter (centre) with Danish forces in Basra. File pic.
Iraqi interpreters have helped Danish forces in Basra

Military spokesman Lt-Cdr Nils Markussen said the initiative had come from Danish soldiers serving in Iraq.

"The signal we want to send is that we of course take care of our employees if the business they have been doing for us is putting them into danger," Cdr Markussen said.

Cdr Markussen said the evacuation had been kept low profile "in order not to target them further".

He also said he believed other countries with troops in Iraq had carried out similar evacuations.

A heated public debate preceded Denmark's decision to arrange the evacuation, with the government eventually reaching a deal with the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party.

Millions displaced

The US and UK have been reluctant to take in large numbers of Iraqi refugees.

The British government said on Friday that it was committed to looking after its troops' Iraqi aides, estimated to number about 700, but asylum applications would be considered on an individual basis.

The US has taken fewer than 1,000 Iraqi refugees although it has pledged to take in about 7,000 more from this year.

Among European countries, the greatest number of Iraqi refugees have gone to Sweden, which does not have any troops in Iraq.

Millions of Iraqis have either been displaced internally or fled to neighbouring nations since the US-led invasion.

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