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Turkish Truckers Halt Deliveries to US Forces in Iraq - 2004-08-02

Turkey's largest trucking association announced Monday it has stopped all deliveries to U.S. forces in Iraq following news of the killing of a Turkish truck driver by Islamist militants in Iraq.

The head of the Istanbul-based International Truckers' Association said poor security conditions in Iraq led to the decision to suspend deliveries of goods to U.S. troops stationed in neighboring Iraq. Cahit Soysal said he hoped that the move would help save the lives of two Turkish truck drivers who are still being held by Islamist militants in Iraq. The association represents around 30 to 40 trucking companies.

Earlier in the day, the Qatar-based Arabic language news channel, al-Jazeera, broadcast footage of a Turkish truck driver being shot dead by masked Islamic militants thought to be linked to the terrorist leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Before he was killed, the hostage identified as Murat Yuce from Ankara, appealed to Turkish companies to pull out of Iraq.

In a related development, the Turkish private news channel NTV reported that two Turkish truck drivers had been killed near the Iraqi capital Baghdad when Iraqi insurgents opened fire on their vehicles.

Iraq is among Turkey's top trading partners. Turkey exported nearly $800 million worth of goods, including food and construction materials, to Iraq in the first of half of this year. Some of the merchandise, including special fuel for military aircraft is destined for U.S. forces in Iraq. A majority of Turks are opposed to the U.S. occupation of Iraq but few support the recent wave of killings of foreign nationals by terrorist groups operating in Iraq.

Bedrettin Karaboga, chairman of a business group in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast provinces which border Iraq, told VOA that the International Truckers' Association's decision to stop shipments to Iraq was not binding and that trade with Iraq would continue. He criticized the association for giving in, as he put it, to terrorists who are everything but Islamic.