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Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 06:46 GMT 07:46 UK
Danish army evacuates 200 Iraqis
Iraqi interpreter with Danish forces in Basra. File pic.
An Iraqi interpreter (centre) helps Danish forces in Basra
The Danish military has secretly airlifted out of the country about 200 Iraqis who were helping its troops.

The Iraqi civilians, mostly those working as aides and translators in the southern region of Basra, will now be offered asylum in Denmark.

A military spokesman said the operation was carried out because of fears the Iraqis might be targeted by militants after the Danish troops pulled out.

Denmark is scheduled to withdraw its 480-strong force from Iraq next month.

Low profile

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.

The last of three planes carrying the evacuees left Basra on Friday morning. The C-130 Hercules was to land in an unspecified third country where the evacuees were to transfer to a civilian jet.

The other two flights were made earlier this week.

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.

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

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

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

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