Commandos return as Iraq terror fears abate
20 January 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Most of the detachment of 70 Dutch commandos dispatched to southern Iraq late last year to monitor possible terrorist activities along the Saudi Arabian border returned home to the Netherlands on Tuesday.
20 January 2004
AMSTERDAM — Most of the detachment of 70 Dutch commandos dispatched to southern Iraq late last year to monitor possible terrorist activities along the Saudi Arabian border returned home to the Netherlands on Tuesday.
The commandos were deployed in December 2003 after security concerns were raised about the 1,100 Dutch peacekeeping troops stationed in Iraq. But the special operations forces failed to detect any terrorist activities in their patrol region, the Defence Ministry said.
The Dutch troops are in charge of security in the thinly-populated, desert province of Al Muthanna in the south of Iraq.
Concerns were heightened after 19 Italian soldiers were killed not far from where the Dutch are based in the city of As Samawah.
Iraqi authorities also confirmed the arrest of an Al Qaeda suspect towards the end of last year who was allegedly planning a bomb attack against Dutch troops.
Defence Minister Henk Kamp thus resolved to deploy the 70 commandos to secure the region and 55 of them returned home on Tuesday. The other 15 commandos will stay in Iraq for several more weeks to assist marines train Iraqi police.
The initial deployment of the commandos irritated many marines already in Iraq because it gave the impression the primary protection force needed protection, news agency ANP reported.
But Minister Kamp said time and time again that the peacekeeping troops were fully capable of defending themselves against attack and the commandos were only on temporary assignment to gather intelligence.
If the security situation degenerates in Iraq, the Dutch commandos can be quickly re-deployed to the region.
The Dutch Parliament has approved a six-month extension of the peacekeeping mission and troops will remain in Iraq until at least the middle of this year. Dutch forces are expected to gradually start the transfer of power to Iraqi authorities in March.
[Copyright Novum Nieuws 2004]
Subject: Dutch news