Thursday, December 02, 2004
Terrorists flow into Iraq from Syria
All Aboard the Terrorists' Convoy
When not in Iraq, Abdullah cuts meat for a living. He is a Syrian cook at the Kingdom of God restaurant in Damascus, in a bustling suburb dominated by Iraqi exiles.
For the past year Abdullah has also been on the payroll of Iraqi resistance forces fighting coalition troops. Like many Syrians he is convinced that his country will be invaded next and that it is only by keeping America bogged down in Iraq that Syria will be spared. "All we know is that Syria is the next station in the American plan. The Americans are all Jews and unbelievers,'" said Abdullah.
In April, the 23-year-old boarded a convoy of vehicles in Aleppo, northern Syria, with 10 other fighters from the area. He had been recruited at a mosque 30 miles south of Aleppo, built last year by a local sheik with business interests in Iraq and strong sympathies with the resistance. It is brazenly entitled the "Mujahedeen Mosque."
Abdullah, originally from the Aleppo area, and the other fighters, were provided with Iraqi passports and weapons. Abdullah was given a bazooka to carry.
They were told they would be relieving Syrian mujahedeen already in Iraq, part of a regular "troop" rotation, and would be expected to fight until they in turn were either killed or replaced.
In return Abdullah's family would be paid $3,000 a month by the mosque, more than most American soldiers in Iraq, and a fortune in Syria.
"I don't feel scared, I feel satisfied," he said.
"We are Muslims, we should do jihad. We should go to Palestine but it is difficult to enter - but in Iraq it is easy to kill the Jews."
Several prominent mosques in Damascus, including the large Bilal al-Hashemi mosque, have reputations as staging posts for Syrian fighters, suggesting a logistical and financial operation beyond the ability of any one tribal leader. The America military believes there may be as many as 2,000 foreign fighters in Iraq, mostly from Syria.
They do not operate in a vacuum. Iraqi exiles - those who fled the Saddam regime and more recent arrivals, supporters of the old regime - live in separate quarters of Damascus.