S. Arabia questions citizens handed over by Syria on suspicion of trying to enter Iraq

RIYADH (AP) — Authorities are interrogating more than 30 Saudis who may have been trying to enter Iraq from Syria to join the insurgency, but were sent home at a time when Syria is under heavy American pressure to stop foreign fighters from crossing its borders.
Brig. Mansour Al Turki, the interior ministry spokesman, said Monday it wasn’t clear if some of those extradited were connected to other crimes.

“You can’t take for granted that everyone arrested is connected to terrorism because some of them are connected with other crimes or with outstanding court summons,” he said.

Interior Minister Prince Nayef told reporters on Sunday that the kingdom recently received “more than 30 Saudis” who were arrested by Syrian authorities on suspicion of trying to enter Iraq.

The circumstances of their arrests in Syria were not clear.

Turki said he did not have exact figures on how many Saudis were sent back by Syria. He said Saudis travel to Syria on tourism, business or to visit their families there.

Syria’s UN Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad, was quoted on Thursday as saying that more than 1,200 people were arrested in recent weeks for trying to cross the border into Iraq and many were sent back to their home countries, including Saudi Arabia, because of suspicions they were trying to join the insurgency.

Speaking of terrorists trying to enter Iraq, Mekdad stressed: “Syria has never been friendly to such elements, who are declared enemies of Syria as well.” Syria does not require entry visas for citizens of Arab countries, making it an attractive holiday destination and an easier route for Arab foreign fighters to get close to the Syrian border.

Despite the extraditions and heavy US pressure, airport security officials said Monday there is no closer scrutiny going on at the nation’s main port of entry, Damascus’ international airport.

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