Gunfight on Jebl Qassioun with Saddam's former bodyguards
A Syrian security officer has died during a gun-battle with former bodyguards of Saddam Hussein. This fight happened early on Monday morning on Jebl Qassioun, the Mountain in Northern Damascus.
Two members of the group of bodyguards were hurt, as were four Syrian policemen. Two militants have been arrested: a Jordanian - Ayed Al-Semadi - and his wife's brother, who was on the run.
The group of militants - which includes former bodyguards of Saddam - were wanted for "terrorist crimes" according to Syrian officials. It's not clear whether those crimes were in Syria or Iraq. The official said that the group had been under surveillance for some time.
Yesterday the Syrian News Wire revealed that two soldiers and a foreign militant were killed in Homs, and last month a raid on a house resulted in the deaths of militants who were planning to bomb Damascus. Syrian officials have kept quiet on whether the three events are linked.
The US has accused Syria of not controlling miltants within its borders, but last week the Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister, Hamed Al-Bayati, said that Syria had stopped 70,000 fighters crossing into Iraq. Today's news of a battle between Syrian forces and men linked with the Iraqi insurgency is likely to be well received by American forces, who have condemned Syria for turning a blind eye to insurgents travelling to Iraq from Syria.
THE JORDANIAN GOVERNMENT HAS CONFIRMED THAT AYED AL-SEMADI AND HIS BROTHER ESCAPED FROM A JORDANIAN COURTHOUSE LAST YEAR. It's not clear whether they will be extradited to Jordan.
A Jordanian expert on Muslim radical groups, Fouad Hussein, has confirmed that the Al-Semadi brothers were close to Jund Ash-Sham - that group was responsible for:
- planning a bomb attack in Damascus and killing a member of the Syrian security service in June 2005,
- a bomb attack on hotels in Sinai, Egypt, which killed 34 people in October 2004,
- a bomb attack in Qatar which killed a British person in March 2005.
Jund Ash-Sham planned to wage holy war on Syria for its secular government, and was planning to attack 'Christian Lebanon'.