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Yankees go home: Fighters arrive in Iraq from Iran, Syria

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Thursday, June 19, 2003

Islamic combatants are entering Iraq from neighboring Iran and Syria for a guerrilla war against the United States.

U.S. officials said both Sunni and Shi'ite insurgents are flowing into Iraq from several of its neighbors in an effort to join the anti-U.S. insurgency. They said the insurgents include hundreds of Saudis and Syrians.

"The people we're scooping up, in many cases, are not Iraqis," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a briefing on Wednesday. "There's some Syrians in the latest net that was cast. And I'm sure there are people either they were in there or they're still coming in from neighboring countries. And it is something that's obviously unhelpful."

On Wednesday, a U.S. soldier was killed in a grenade attack. At least 43 soldiers have been killed in insurgency strikes throughout Iraq since President George Bush declared an end to major combat hostilities in April, Middle East Newsline reported.

Officials said Islamic insurgency groups in the Middle East have determined that the U.S. military presence in Iraq must be fought the way the Soviet Union was fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s. They said recruitment for the Sunni insurgency war against the 160,000 U.S. troops has taken place in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The anti-U.S. insurgency, officials said, continues to be local rather than guided by a national leadership. They said the insurgents, who have formed groups with such names as "New Return" and the "Snake Party," do not appear to be inspired by deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. But they said Saddam has offered a bounty for the killing of Americans.

"I believe there are three groups out there right now," Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, said. "Basically, there is a group of ex-Saddam Baath Party loyalists, some Islamic fundamentalists, and then there are just some plain Iraqis who are poor and are being paid to attack U.S. forces."

Odierno told a briefing in a video-conference from Baghdad that resistance from Saddam loyalists continues in Basra, Kirkuk, Samara and Tikrit. More than 27,000 soldiers from the so-called Task Force Iron Horse are operating in Sunni cities and have captured more than 400 people, 60 of whom were confirmed as members of the former Iraqi Intelligence Service, paramilitary Fedayeen Saddam and Republican Guard leadership. The general said his division has used tactical unmanned air vehicles to track insurgents.

"This is not guerrilla warfare," Odierno said. "It is not close to guerrilla warfare because it's not coordinated, it's not organized, and it's not led."

The general said several detainees were combatants from Iran and Syria. Odierno said he could not confirm whether any of the detainees captured had ties to Al Qaida.

In another development, two former Iraqi soldiers were killed when a protest turned violent in Baghdad on Wednesday. U.S. troops opened fire on the Iraqi soldiers when they attacked U.S. headquarters in a demonstration to press for their back pay. On Thursday, another Iraqi national was killed and 12 others wereinjured in a rocket attack on a U.S. military command.

Officials said the U.S. military is counting on developing the Iraqi military and security forces to help combat insurgents. Rumsfeld said 8,000 Iraqi police officers have returned to work. About 2,000 are on patrol.

In addition, U.S. allies have pledged to send up to 20,000 troops over the next three months to help stabilize Iraq, officials said. They said Britain and Poland will each command a multinational division. Gen. Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that an unnamed third U.S. ally is examining a request to take command of a third multinational division, which would comprise 10,000 troops.

The U.S. military captured the highest-level aide to Saddam, Abdid Hamid Mahmoud Tikriti. Tikriti, the longtime secretary to Saddam, is said to have been provided access to Iraq's missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.

In a related development, Bush has nominated Army Lt. Gen. John Abizaid to head U.S. Central Command, responsible for Iraq and the surrounding region in the Middle East. Abizaid, a fluent Arabic speaker and of Lebanese extraction, has served as deputy commander of Central Command since February 2003. The Senate must confirm Abizaid, who was named to replace the retiring Gen. Tommy Franks.

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