ZAKHU, Iraq — A first group of 792 Kurdish refugees, fearing reprisals for their ties to U.S. aid groups in northern Iraq, flew out of Turkey on Monday, headed for the American island of Guam and a new life in the United States.
An additional 1,422 Kurds were to be flown to Guam's Anderson Air Force Base aboard five charter flights in the next few days. The airlift, from the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, was expected to be concluded by Thursday, the State Department said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the United States felt an obligation to the refugees, because Iraqi President Saddam Hussein might "inflict punishment" because of their work for U.S. aid agencies.
Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. Embassy's chief of mission in Turkey, told reporters in Diyarbakir that the Iraqi Kurds will stay in Guam, a U.S. possession in the western Pacific, for two or three months before going to the United States.