El Salvador to Send Troops Despite Threats

August 20, 2004

SAN SALVADOR (AFP) – AnIslamic terrorist group with ties to AlQaeda that had already threatened ElSalvador announced on the InternetMonday that it is giving the country anultimatum to withdraw its troops fromIraq.“We give you 20 days to leave Iraq.This is the last period of time before bringingto war to the interior of El Salvador,”threatened the group, which calls itself the“Mohamed Atta Al Qaeda Yihad Brigade.”The group, named after one of the presumedauthors of the Sept. 11, 2001, terroristattacks on the United States, madeits first threats against El Salvador on Aug.6, warning it would attack the country if itdid not withdraw its troops.Another group, called Jammat alTawhid al Islamiya (Islamic UnificationGroup), asserted days later on another Webpage that Salvadoran troops in Iraq wouldknow “hell” if the government sent moresoldiers to the country, as it had announcedit would.THE departure of the additional contingentof 380 Salvadoran troops, whowould relieve the 374 currently stationedthere, was delayed this week because of alack of adequate air transportation, militarysources in El Salvador informed thisweek. The departure had been scheduledfor Tuesday.Colonel Eduardo Figueroa, Chief ofthe Center of Communications andProtocol of the Salvadoran DefenseMinistry, asserted that the delay “has nothingto do with” the recent terrorist threats.“The departure was delayed a little bit;the date of the 17th of August was an opendate and now we hope (the soldiers) cantravel during the course of the week, withthe hope that the coalition (led by theUnited States) can provide transportationfor the personnel,” Figueroa said.Some 1,500 activists marched in SanSalvador on Monday to protest sending thenew contingent, while lawyer JoséFrancisco Garcia presented a demandbefore the Supreme Court againstSalvadoran President Elías Antonio Saca,claiming he violated the nation’s constitutionby sending the troops.The demand, also filed againstDefense Minister Otto Romero, assertsthat a legislative decree authorizing theshipment of the troops violates a portion ofthe Constitution that reads, “the ArmedForces is an institution of service to thenation and has as its mission the defense ofthe sovereignty of the state and the integrityof the territory.”In Costa Rica, the ConstitutionalChamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV)last week began the review of three acts ofunconstitutionality filed against PresidentAbel Pacheco for pledging “moral support”for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq lastyear (TT, Aug. 13).EL Salvador is the only LatinAmerican country that maintains a presencein Iraq, after Honduras, Nicaragua,and the Dominican Republic all withdrewtheir troops. Still, those countries, alongwith Costa Rica, remain listed as membersof the U.S.-led “Coalition of the Willing.”El Salvador’s first contingent oftroops, sent in September of 2003, are currentlystationed in the holy Shiite city ofNayaf, 160 kilometers south of Baghdad.Saca recently reiterated that he wouldnot cede to threats against his country, andthat the new contingent would go to Iraq.

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