Terrorism pays: Al Qaida offers recruits 10 times the norm

Monday, September 29, 2003

Al Qaida has recruited hundreds of Islamic agents from such countries as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria to fight the U.S. in Iraq by offering young men far more than they could earn at home.

The salaries and benefits, U.S. officials said, amount to hundreds of dollars per month, up to 10 times that of the average salary in their home countries.. The offer has resulted in a stream of young men being recruited in Jordan, Syria and Yemen.

[On Monday, U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces staged their largest joint operation against suspected Sunni insurgents north of Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported. The operation in Tikrit included more than 200 U.S.-trained Iraqi officers.]

U.S. administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, said the U.S. military has captured 19 Al Qaida agents in Iraq as well as about 250 Islamic volunteers.

"Some of them may just be terrorists-for-hire," Bremer said in a Defense Department briefing on Friday. "We're not entirely sure."

But other U.S. officials said some of the Al Qaida insurgents have reported recruitment by the organization in several Arab countries that border Iraq. The officials said those captured reported Al Qaida promises of attractive salaries and other benefits to gain recruits.

The officials said the interrogation of about a score of Al Qaida insurgents in Iraq has yielded information on the recruitment efforts and aims of the Islamic group. They said those recruited to fight in Iraq come from Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Syrian nationals comprise 123 of those captured in Iraq, the largest number of foreign nationals in that country, officials said. Iranians and Yemenis comprise the next two largest groups.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said many of those who came from Iran were recruited by the Al Qaida-aligned Ansar Al Islam group. Ansar was based in northern Iraq, but returned to Iran in the first week of the U.S.-led war in Iraq in April.

"A large number of Ansar Al Islam terrorist moved from Iran back into Iraq and are there now and are undoubtedly involved in a attacks that are taking place so we're working on it," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld said Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were cooperating with the United States to stop the flow of Islamic insurgents into Iraq. But the defense secretary said Syria continues to allow insurgents to use its border to join the Sunni war in Iraq.

"Syria has been a problem; the flow of people down through the Syrian border into Iraq has been a problem," Rumsfeld said on Thursday. "The situation in Iran is different, in a sense, but one of the biggest problems is the Ansar Al Islam terrorist group that was in Iran has moved back into Iraq and that is notably unhelpful, so we're not getting the kind of cooperation from either of those countries that is notable at the moment."

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