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More foreign fighters seen slipping into Iraq
BAGHDAD (AP) — Intelligence officials say foreign fighters have been slipping back into Iraq in larger numbers recently and may have been behind some of the most devastating attacks this year, reviving a threat the U.S. military believed had been almost entirely eradicated.
It is impossible to verify the actual numbers of foreign insurgents entering the country, but one Middle Eastern intelligence official estimated recently that 250 came in October alone. U.S. officials say the figure is far lower, but they have acknowledged an increase since August.
At the same time, Iraqi officials say there has been a surge in financial aid to al Qaeda’s front group in Iraq as the U.S. military prepares to leave by the end of 2011. They said it reflects fears by Arab states over the growing influence of Iran’s Shi’ite-led government over Iraq and its Shi’ite-dominated government.
The six are suspected of involvement in the Oct. 31 siege of a Christian church that left 68 people dead and drew international outrage, Gen. al-Moussawi said. They also are suspected in two summertime attacks on an Iraqi army headquarters in central Baghdad that killed a total of 73 people.
“All who committed these attacks are (non-Iraqi) Arabs,” he said. “This indicates the failure of al Qaeda leaders to recruit Iraqis to carry out suicide attacks.”
U.S. officials are playing down the threat.
Army Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, said the military noticed a slight increase in foreign fighters starting in August, but he would not say how many. He said the number remains far lower than when insurgents were rushing in from other Arab states between 2005 and 2007.
“There were some indications of a flow of foreign fighters in,” Col. Johnson said. “And that is often associated with suicide attacks, so we were anticipating something happening.”
But a Mideast counterterrorism official said an estimated 250 foreign fighters entered Iraq in October alone. He said they came through the Syrian city of Homs, a hub for Syrian Muslim fundamentalists that is run mostly by Tunisians and Algerians. Other fighters have come from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Yemen.
Additionally, the official said, tens of millions of foreign dollars annually are funding the Iraqi insurgency, which has received about $5 billion in aid since 2007. The money comes from al Qaeda leaders, Muslims who want the United States to leave, and so-called ‘Arab nationalists’ who are eager for Sunni Muslims to regain power in Shi’ite-dominated Iraq.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
Even at the height of the war, foreign fighters were considered a small percentage of the total number of insurgents in Iraq. But their presence encouraged donations from overseas, and they made up some of the most hardcore jihadists who were willing to carry out suicide bombings.
Why such hatred toward America's freedom of religion?
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