World Tribune.com

U.S. shifts troops to stop fighters entering from Syria

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Monday, May 31, 2004

The U.S. military is moving troops that were withdrawn from Sunni and Shi'ite cities to areas near the Syrian border. The units have orders to stop Islamic insurgents from entering Iraq from Syria.

U.S. officials said the military has redeployed marines from Faluja to the Syrian border. They said the marines have been operating in the Anbar province in an effort to prevent the flow of Al Qaida-inspired insurgents from Syria into Iraq.

"They were able to go ahead and pull some of those forces back out to not only secure the borders," Maj. Gen. John Sattler, Central Command operations director, said. "But also to work the towns along the Syrian border, which is important to make sure that there are no safe havens in those towns."

Officials said the military has made the prevention of foreign insurgency movement from Syria to Iraq a high priority, Middle East Newsline reported. The officials said thousands of mostly Sunni insurgents from throughout the Middle East have arrived in Syria for the trek to Iraq.

The initiative to stop Islamic insurgents from crossing the Iraqi-Syrian border has been bloody. On May 29, three Marines were killed in Anbar during what officials termed security and stability operations. No further details were reported.

For his part, Sattler said the U.S. military has contained the flow of insurgents from Syria into Iraq. But he said the 900-kilometer border between the two countries provides lots of opportunities for insurgents.

"They [marines] were able to go ahead and pull some of those forces back out to," Sattler, in a Pentagon briefing from Qatar, said, "not only secure the borders but also to work the towns along the Syrian border, which is important all the same reasons: to make sure that there are no safe havens in those towns and, in addition, to work civil military operations projects, bring some degree of commerce, bring money into the town and go ahead and enhance the quality of life."

In May, the military killed more than 20 people at an Iraqi facility near the Syrian border said to have been used as an insurgency way-station. Officials dismissed assertions by Iraqi sources that those killed were revelers at a wedding party.

"We have very good intelligence that indicates beyond our shadow of a doubt that that safe house was in fact being used as a safe house to bring fighters across the border and into Iraq," Sattler said. "It was a halfway house where there were clothes there, there were weapons there, there were false documentation there."


Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts



Google
Search Worldwide Web Search WorldTribune.com Search WorldTrib Archives