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The Defense Agency on Thursday ordered some 600 Ground-Self Defense Force troops to be dispatched to southern Iraq later this month to relieve the GSDF troops already there on Japan’s humanitarian aid mission in the war-torn country.

According to the dispatch order, the GSDF troops, most of whom belong to the GSDF Sixth Division, headquartered in Yamagata Prefecture, will leave for the southern Iraq city of Samawah on a three-month mission of reconstruction and water-purification work.

The GSDF troops rotate every three months and the tour of the current contingent, now deployed to Samawah, is scheduled to end in early December.

The order came as the government still ponders whether to extend the troop deployment beyond the Dec. 14 expiration of its one-year mission.

Defense Agency chief Yoshinori Ono stressed that the order does not mean the government has decided to extend the one-year deployment.

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