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South Korea Begins Bringing Troops Home from Iraq

South Korea is starting to withdraw troops from Iraq to reduce its presence in the war-torn nation by a third.

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff says the first group of 40 soldiers left Iraq Tuesday, as part of a plan to withdraw 1,000 troops stationed in northern Iraq by the end of the year.

South Korea deployed nearly 3,600 troops to the northern city of Irbil two years ago, making it the third-largest contingent of forces after the United States and Britain.

The withdrawal is partly in response to lawmakers' and citizens' criticism of South Korea's participation in the war.

Seoul first came under pressure to withdraw troops after Islamist militants killed a South Korean translator in Iraq in June, 2004.