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Jordanian soldier killed in skirmish with militants
BEIRUT — A Jordanian soldier was killed in clashes with armed militants trying to cross the border into Syria on Monday, as Syria’s civil war spilled into neighboring countries.
Jordanian Information Minister Sameeh Maaytah said the soldier was the first member of the country’s military to be killed in violence related to Syria’s civil war. He died in clashes with militants trying to illegally enter Syria to join rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Mr. Maaytah did not say whether the militants were Jordanians or foreign fighters trying to jump into the fray in the neighboring country.
A statement by the Jordanian military said the soldier was killed in a shootout with a group of eight suspected militants armed with pistols and machine guns.
Jordanian troops detained the suspected gunmen and authorities are questioning them, the statement said.
Several foreign Islamists have been fighting in Syria alongside the rebels.
Jordan’s banned Salafi movement — which promotes an ultraconservative brand of Islam — has sent several fighters to Syria in past months, and Jordanian border patrols have caught some of them recently.
Meanwhile, cease-fire efforts by U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi appeared to be faltering.
Syria’s state-run news agency SANA said Damascus supports the truce proposal, but would not commit to halting fire during a four-day Muslim holiday until Western countries and their Gulf allies stop supporting rebels and halt their weapons supplies to the anti-regime fighters.
Mr. Brahimi met with Mr. Assad in Damascus on Sunday as part of his push for a cease-fire between rebels and government forces for the Eid al-Adha holiday, which begins Oct. 26.
The envoy told reporters following a closed-door meeting that he also had held talks earlier with opposition groups inside and outside the country, and received “promises” but not a “commitment” from them to honor the cease-fire.
SANA said Mr. Assad assured Mr. Brahimi that he supported his effort, but that any political solution to the conflict must be “based on the principle of halting terrorism, a commitment from the countries involved in supporting, arming and harboring terrorists in Syria to stop doing such acts.”
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged the international community to support Mr. Brahimi and his cease-fire proposal.
Ms. Ashton toured the Zaatari refugee camp Monday, the first day of her five-day visit to the Middle East.
Jordan hosts around 210,000 Syrian refugees — the largest number in the region, according to the U.N. refugee agency. The Zaatari camp is home to some 35,000 Syrians.
More than 33,000 people have been killed since the uprising started in March last year.
Syrian authorities blame the revolt on a foreign conspiracy and accuse Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with the U.S., other Western countries and Turkey, of funding, training and arming the rebels, whom they describe as “terrorists.”
By Tom Fitton
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