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US Marines Train Chadian Soldiers in Counter-Terrorism - 2004-06-09

A small contingent of U.S. Marines has arrived in Chad to train government forces there in counter-terrorism tactics.

A Marine spokesman says about 30 Marines began training Chadian government forces in counter-terrorism tactics this week under the State Department's Pan-Sahel Initiative.

The spokesman tells VOA the training will last about eight weeks. It will focus on teaching small units within Chad's armed forces how to operate effectively in combating terrorists.

Further details of the training are being withheld for security reasons.

But the spokesman describes as coincidental the arrival of the Marines in Chad soon after government forces scored a major victory in fighting against an Algerian-led terrorist group called the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.

More than 40 members of the group were killed. But their alleged leader, Amari Saifi, nicknamed the Para, apparently escaped.

Last month, another rebel group called the Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad claimed it had captured him and was seeking to turn him over, possibly for a cash payment.

News reports now quote sources close to the rebel group as saying they expect to turn over Mr. Saifi to Algeria shortly.

Mr. Saifi has been a wanted man since last year when his group kidnapped more than 30 European tourists in the Sahara, many of them German. He was reported to have received a substantial ransom for releasing them, using the money to buy military equipment and to build influence with the Salafist group.

The Marines' arrival in Chad follows what appeared to have been a highly successful counter-terrorist training program conducted by U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers in Mali and Mauritania.

The State Department says the Marines will carry out similar training in August and September in Niger.

The Marines, long admired for their warrior ethos, have most recently been involved in a counter-terrorist training program in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.