First Published: 2003-11-11

Coalition holding 20 al-Qaeda suspects

US Lieutenant General suspects are still under investigation, have not yet provenn to belong to al-Qaeda.


Middle East Online

Sanchez put number of foreign fighters in Iraq at probably a couple of hundred

BAGHDAD - The US military has detained 20 men thought to have ties with Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terror group, the top US ground commander in Iraq told reporters Tuesday.

"We have up to 20 suspected al-Qaeda members," Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez said, adding they were still under investigation and had not yet been proven to belong to bin Laden's organisation.

"We are seeing Yemenis, we are seeing Sudanese, and we are seeing Syrians and Egyptians," he said about cross-border traffic.

He said the fighters, if they were not al-Qaeda, had possibly received some financing and training from bin Laden's organisation or other "international terror groups."

Sanchez put the number of foreign fighters in Iraq at "probably a couple of hundred." He added: "We know that they are coming in and out and we know where they are coming through."

Terrorism is set to intensify in Iraq over the next few months, US overseer Paul Bremer told The Times of London on Monday, saying "several hundreds" of professional terrorists had sneaked into Iraq.

"We're going to have increased attacks and increased terrorism because the terrorists can see the reconstruction dynamic in Iraq is moving in our direction," Bremer told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, Sanchez said the US Blackhawk helicopter downed Friday in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit was most likely shot by a rocket-propelled grenade.

"About what occurred, it is very clear to us that probably a rocket-propelled grenade was fired," said Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez.

He said the RPG was apparently fired as the aircraft was landing.


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