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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05DAMASCUS6423 2005-12-12 08:48:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Damascus
Cable title:  

TWO MORE SHOOT-OUTS BETWEEN ARMED ELEMENTS AND

Tags:   PGOV PTER SY 
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VZCZCXYZ0033
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #6423 3460848
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 120848Z DEC 05
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6049
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0539
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L DAMASCUS 006423 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

PARIS FOR ZEYA; LONDON FOR TSOU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/12/2015
TAGS: PGOV PTER SY
SUBJECT: TWO MORE SHOOT-OUTS BETWEEN ARMED ELEMENTS AND
SARG SECURITY SERVICES

REF: DAMASCUS 6326

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Stephen A. Seche, per 1.4 b,d.



1. (C) Summary: Two more shoot-outs between armed elements
and SARG security services have occurred in Syria, a week
after two earlier clashes in the Aleppo area (reported
reftel). A December 8 incident involving armed Islamists
took place near Aleppo, and the second, possibly involving
criminal elements, occurred in southern Syria, near Dara'a,
the night of December 10-11. There were unconfirmed reports
of fatalities in both clashes. SARG press coverage, while
limited, seems designed to convince observers that Syria,
like others in the region, faces a terrorist threat and that
its security forces are mounting vigorous counter-terrorism
efforts. End Summary.



2. (SBU) The first of the most recent clashes between SARG
security forces and armed Islamists occurred December 8
outside a village near Idlib, located some 30 miles southwest
of Aleppo (200 miles north of Damascus). The official Syrian
press agency, SANA, reported that security forces shot and
killed five militants during an hour-long exchange of fire.
Three others reportedly committed suicide before they could
be captured, according to media accounts. SANA reported --
as it did in describing those involved last week -- that the
militants belonged to a "takfeeri" fundamentalist group that
insists on a strict interpretation of the Koran and of Sharia
law that condemns as infidels those who do not accept this
view.



3. (C) According to Albert Aji of the Associated Press, who
spoke by phone to eyewitnesses, Syrian helicopters could be
heard flying in the area where the clash occurred. Aji said
that the militants were thought to belong to a Jund a-Sham
(Soldiers of Syria) cell associated with Abu Musab Zarqawi,
the head of al-Qaida in Iraq. It was not clear, he added,
whether the group was focused on mounting attacks in Syria
that would embarrass the regime or if the militants were
providing support for the insurgency in Iraq. The Syrian
media did not provide any photographs or film footage of the
bodies of the dead militants, said Aji. When asked what had
provoked the attack, Aji speculated that it represented part
of a government crackdown on armed Islamists and had taken
place at the initiative of the SARG.



4. (C) The second incident occurred the night of December
10-11 in the village of Da'el, located near Dara'a, some 40
miles south of Damascus. Two Embassy FSN's with relatives in
the area reported the shoot-out, although as of midday
December 12, there has been no press coverage or SANA
statement on the incident. The RSO/FSN investigator who
followed up reported that SARG security forces from the
Political Security Directorate (PSD) were in pursuit of two
vehicles. There are indications that PSD had been following
the vehicles for a substantial distance. During the
shoot-out that took place when the vehicles were stopped in
Da'el, two of the armed gunmen were wounded and several
others reportedly escaped. There are unconfirmed reports
that one policeman and several bystanders were killed. There
are preliminary indications that these men may have been
smugglers rather than political militants, but the details
remain sketchy.



5. (C) Comment: While it has not been possible to nail down
with precision all the details surrounding these two most
recent clashes, or the two that preceded them by one week,
there have been enough eyewitness accounts to confirm that
the clashes occurred. The intentions of the individuals with
whom the SARG security forces clashed are somewhat less
clear, however, although SARG press coverage seems designed
to convince observers that Syria, like others in the region,
faces a terrorist threat and that its security forces are
mounting vigorous counter-terrorism efforts.






SECHE