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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Former U.S. officer training Hamas military

GAZA CITY — U.S. volunteers with military backgrounds have been recruited to help train the new Hamas army in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian sources said one of the Americans was former U.S. Army captain Fares Al Ashi, Middle East Newsline reported.

"This information is important for the youth," Al Ashi said during a briefing to visiting journalists in Gaza City.

The sources said Al Ashi, a specialist in explosives and weapons, had been trained in South Carolina during his years with the U.S. military.

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"We give them general information about the explosives, those manufactured locally and the Israeli ones, because those people always reach the dangerous places before we, the bomb squad, do."

Al Ashi and the other Americans were said to have been identified as Muslims who joined the U.S. military in the 1990s. The sources said the Americans relayed U.S. military methods and training to Hamas for its war against Israel.

The Hamas army has been equipped and trained by Iran. But Palestinian sources said some Muslims in the United States have provided funding and expertise to the new Hamas regime and military.

In May 2008, Hamas police launched a police training program assisted by the U.S. trainers. The four-month training course has been directed by Maj. Khalil Hejo and seven other officers.

"In the past, a brigadier general used to run this administration in addition to 250 officer trainers, but now, seven trainers and I oversee the whole program," Hejo said.

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