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South Korea Troops Deployed to Iraq

September 22, 2004 GMT

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ About 2,800 South Korean troops have completed deployment to northern Iraq to become the third largest coalition partner after the United States and Britain, officials said Wednesday.

South Korea began the dispatch on Aug. 3, shipping troops first to Kuwait, where they trained for operations. On Sept. 3, the troops began traveling to the Kurdish town of Irbil by land and air.

Maj. Gen. Song Ki-seok, a top operations officer at Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the deployment had been completed on Wednesday without incident.

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The South Korean convoys found and removed two crudely made explosives planted on their route, but could not determine whether the devices were targeted at their troops, Song said during a news conference.

South Korea has imposed a news blackout on the troop movements for security reasons. Fears of terrorist attacks on its troop dispatch increased after a South Korean was beheaded by militants in Iraq in June.

Most of the troops are engineers and medics who will build and repair roads and offer free medical services.

South Korean troops have set up guard posts, wire-entanglements, and protective concrete walls around their posts to guard against attacks from insurgents, said Song.

The South Korean military had first deployed about 600 engineers and medics in southern Iraq last year. Those soldiers were incorporated into the dispatch to Irbil.

An additional 800 troops will leave South Korea for Irbil in November, Defense Ministry officials said.