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US Restricting Movement in Iraq's Western Desert - 2003-03-31

The U.S. military in the Gulf said it is denying freedom of movement to anyone in Iraq's western desert. The announcement follows reports that thousands of people are attempting to enter the country from Syria and Jordan to take up arms to defend Iraq against the U.S.-led coalition.

Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, the deputy operations director at the U.S. Central Command, said special forces are controlling the movement of people and vehicles across Iraq's western desert.

"We are denying freedom of movement throughout the western desert and are being very effective at that," General Brooks said.

There have been reports that as many as 4,000 Iraqis and Arabs of other nationalities are traveling or intend to travel into Iraq to help defend the country against the U.S.-led invasion. Some of them are reported to have offered their services as suicide bombers.

General Brooks said U.S. special forces are denying freedom of action and freedom of movement to anyone using the highways from Jordan and Syria. He said the soldiers are stopping and checking vehicles, and they have turned some people back because it is dangerous to enter an area where combat operations are underway.

General Brooks said U.S. special forces can identify potentially dangerous people or vehicles and can attack and destroy them if need be.