• Kyodo

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The first Ground Self-Defense Force troops leaving Iraq flew Friday to Kuwait, starting a monthlong pullout that will bring to an end Japan’s 2 1/2-year reconstruction and aid mission in the southern city of Samawah.

An Air Self-Defense Force C-130 transport plane, carrying about 30 troops, arrived at a Kuwaiti airport in the afternoon.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced in June the withdrawal of the roughly 600-strong GSDF troop contingent whose first rotation was deployed to Samawah in early 2004.

The GSDF pullout is expected to be completed by the end of July and all troops are to return to Japan by August.

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