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Thirty Kurdish Syrian soldiers defected into the autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan over the past two days and have been granted refugee status, a regional deputy minister told AFP on Monday.

“We received them for humanitarian reasons, and they are under our protection and we gave them refugee status,” said Anwar Haji Othman, Kurdish deputy minister for the local peshmerga security forces.

“We will not hand them over to the Syrian government because they are Kurdish and it is our right to protect them,” he said.

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