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UK to withdraw troops from Bosnia

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britain is withdrawing more than 600 troops from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a move that basically ends 15 years of a "continuous UK military presence" in the Balkan country, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram -- who made the announcement on Thursday -- said the country was "becoming increasingly safe" and that there are "increasing indications of a security situation approaching normality."

Bosnia, which became independent with the breakup of Yugoslavia, endured years of interethnic civil war in the 1990s. The country is populated by Muslims, Serbs, and Croats.

International peacekeepers have been based there since the mid-90s.

British troops in Bosnia are under the European Union Force, or EUFOR, and the returning troops are mainly from the Welsh Guards.

Overall EUFOR troop numbers in Bosnia are being reduced from more than 6,000 to 2,500.

Ingram said the troops would be withdrawn at the end of next month. Most of them have been stationed in Banja Luka in northwestern Bosnia.

A small contingent of staff officers will stay at the European Union's military headquarters in Bosnia's capital of Sarajevo.

Britain has made other international troop moves recently.

The move comes days after Britain announced a 1,600-person troop reduction in southern Iraq and an increase of about 1,400 troops to southern Afghanistan.

British peacekeepers patrol in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


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