Syrian forces kill 8 militants
Updated: 2005-12-09 09:10
Syrian forces battled a group of Islamic extremists holed up in a farmhouse
Thursday, killing eight in a fight that ended when some of the militants blew
themselves up rather than be captured, state media said.
The gunbattle was the second clash with militants this week. Syria also
announced Wednesday it had uncovered a bomb-making factory in the northern city
of Aleppo, with manuals for attacks on public buildings and security
headquarters in Syria.
The sweeps against militants come as Damascus is under intensifying U.S.
pressure to stop Islamic extremists from entering Iraq to join the insurgency
against U.S. and Iraqi forces.
It is not known, however, whether the crackdown is in part a response to the
pressure. Syria has suggested the militants have links to Iraq, but has been
unclear whether they were intending to cross into Iraq or to carry out attacks
Thursday's fighting took place in Idlib, 200 miles north of Damascus, the
state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.
In this image from Syrian TV, showing weapons
and explosives seized by Syrian anti-terror forces are displayed after a
gunbattle with radical Muslim militants in the northern city of Idlib 330
km (200 miles), north the Damascus on Thursday, Dec.8, 2005.
Security forces battled the militants for an hour at the farmhouse, killing
five of them. Then, "a huge explosion was heard inside the farmhouse. It
appeared that three members of the group, wearing belts of explosives, blew
themselves up," SANA said.
SANA identified the militants only as "takfiris," a reference to extremists
who brand as infidels other Muslims who do not adhere to their views.
On Sunday, security forces clashed with militants planning to launch terror
attacks in Aleppo, about 50 miles northeast of Idlib. Two militants were
captured but died later of their wounds.
Before the militants died, they confessed that their group was planning to
establish contact "with similar groups that are active in neighboring countries"
¡ª a reference to Iraq, SANA reported.
On Wednesday, security forces ¡ª working on information from the two militants
who died ¡ª raided an explosives laboratory in Aleppo, seizing bomb-making
materials, tools and training manuals for attacks against public buildings and
Syria has said some of the material came from Lebanon. Relations between
Syria and Lebanon have soured since Syria withdrew its troop from its western
neighbor in April following the outcry over the assassination of former Lebanese
Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Both sides have accused each other of allowing weapons to be smuggled across
The United States has accused Syria of hosting extremists who support attacks
in Iraq and Israel, but Syria also faces homegrown militants.
On Sept. 2, Syrian security forces killed five members of Jund al-Sham, which
means Soldiers of Syria, in the north of the country and seized bombs and
Jund al-Sham was formed in Afghanistan by Syrian, Palestinian and Jordanian
militants with links to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qaida in