Irish News

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Syria-bound troops train for ambush and road-side bombs

Tom Brady Security Editor

Published 27/08/2013|04:49

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Peacekeeping troops carry out an anti-ambush operation on patrol with an armoured personnel carrier in the Glen of Imaal, Co Wicklow, before their deployment to Syria

PEACEKEEPING troops are being tested on their ability to avoid an armed ambush and counter planned roadside bomb attacks as they prepare for deployment next month on the Golan Heights in Syria.

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Their final week's training is designed to ensure they stay alive when they go out on patrol in the conflict zone.

The mission readiness exercises, which got under way yesterday at the Glen of Imaal in west Wicklow, are providing the stiffest tests they have faced so far to the skills they have built up over the past few weeks.

After completing the exercises, the 115-strong contingent will be reviewed today by Defence Minister Alan Shatter at Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin.


And military chiefs have organised a refresher course in dealing with the possibility of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) attack.

All of the troops have already been trained in how to cope with a CBRN threat but it is felt a refresher course is necessary because of the danger of another chemical attack similar to the incident in the Syrian capital Damascus last week.

But senior officers are not anticipating major problems with their deployment as they are joining the United Nations disengagement observer force, UNDOF, which is a mature mission, and the biggest problems are likely to arise from red tape and completing paperwork.

However, there is some concern as a result of intensive fighting between Syrian government forces and armed opposition groups close to UNDOF positions in the past week.

Force commander Lieutenant General I S Singha warned that the fighting was exposing the peacekeepers to security risks and threats and said this was not acceptable irrespective of where it originated.

The clashes took place around Ruihinah and in the communities of Braika, Jasim and Bir Ajam in the UNDOF area of operations.

Lt Gen Singha said UNDOF had taken necessary security measures to allow its peacekeepers to carry out the mission's mandate and said they would not be deterred by security risks and threats resulting from the fighting in their area.

UNDOF was established in 1974 to supervise the implementation of the disengagement agreement between Israeli and Syrian forces. Its tasks are to maintain the ceasefire between Syria and Israel, supervise the disengagement of troops from both sides and oversee the areas of separation and limitation. Lt Gen Singha said the mission had no authority to interfere in the internal conflict in Syria and called on all sides to respect the safety and security of the mission's personnel and premises.

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