Asharq Al-Awsat, Washington – A US official has told Asharq Al-Awsat that Damascus international airport remains one of the main points of entry for Arab insurgents on their way to Iraq. Syrian sources confirmed that Syrian authorities have arrested 12 members of a terrorist organization that targets US and European interests in the Middle East.
Syrian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that amongst the detainees are two Iraqis, three Saudis, a Yemeni and two Kuwaitis, one of whom is a member of the Kuwaiti security forces. The source highlighted that the detainees were highly trained and were supported by a strong financial network in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries.
The Syrian source that spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity said that Syria allows all Arabs to enter due to the country”s dependency on revenue gained from tourism. The source further highlighted that Arabs that enter the country are treated the same was as Syrians and that it is not in the country”s interest to change a policy that it has been following for 40 years.
The source referred to the increase in measures taken by the Syrian authorities on the Iraqi-Syrian border to curb those trying to infiltrate Iraq to carry out terrorist activities. It added that Syrian efforts have so far led to the arrest and deportation of 1325 people. This number includes 299 Jordanians, 86 Libyans, 163 Algerians, 155 Tunisians, 119 Yemenis, 60 Lebanese, 71 Sudanese, 263 Saudis, 35 Moroccans, 22 Egyptians, 8 Omanis, 5 Mauritanians, 3 Bahrainis, four UAE citizens, six Kuwaitis, nine Palestinians, one Somali, two Iraqis, two Turks, and two Pakistanis.
The source reported that approximately 4000 Syrians have unsuccessfully attempted to leave the country for Iraq that has led to their arrest and questioning. The source added that 764 fundamentalists are still held and that investigations have indicated that most are members of terrorist networks some of which intended to carry out terrorist attacks in France, Germany and the United States.
The US state department confirmed to Asharq al-Awsat that this information has been received from Syrian authorities; however, it could not verify that arrests have been made.