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As Grenada tensions ease, officials debate how to reduce US security role

By Dennis VolmanStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / November 16, 1983

St. George's, Grenada

Everywhere in St. George's - on the beach, in the restaurants, on the main seaside drive - relaxed, animated groups of people are tentatively proclaiming a return to normality.

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Even the well-armed foreign soldiers are visibly less tense than they were a week ago. They mingle freely with local residents in this small tropical port.

United States Army officers and thoughtful Grenadians, however, worry that small groups of ex-Grenadian Army (PRA) members could be hiding in the hills, perhaps regrouping for terrorist attacks.

United States paratroopers bathing at the beach and US mission members dining on the crowded terrace of the Red Crab restaurant look distinctly vulnerable to such attacks. And even many of the Grenadians and Americans who want to see US troops quickly withdrawn recognize that Grenada will continue to have some real security problems for the next few months.

The challenge, these sources say, is to handle the security problems with as little US military involvement as possible - and in a way that least infringes on the reestablishment of Grenadian sovereignty and normal political functioning.

US military sources estimate that it will take several weeks for whatever PRA elements remain in the hills to reorganize.

Any such PRA groups will face difficulties in obtaining supplies of arms. But many informed observers here say that the radical forces probably have access to arms caches hidden in the mountainous interior by the previous government. Some prominent Grenadians also fear that if US naval surveillance ends, resistance forces could also be resupplied by sea.

Meanwhile, the US Army is using all the high-technology methods at its disposal, including sophisticated radar, to ferret out any guerrilla elements before they can start any attacks.

The disquiet that many Grenadians feel about PRA members still hiding out has its roots in the shock of the Fort Rupert massacre, when Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and about 200 demonstrators were gunned down.

Until ''bloody Wednesday,'' as the Oct. 19 massacre is called, the killing of political opponents was unknown on this small island. Many Grenadians have still not shaken off the unease brought on by that day's events.

But even some well-known islanders asked that their names not be published because of their fear of possible reprisals.

As a prominent Grenadian said, ''If the soldiers at Fort Rupert could gun down their own friends and brothers from the New Jewel Movement (Bishop's political party), they are obviously madmen capable of anything. Would they stop at killing anyone they think is collaborating with the American invaders?''

Grenadians' fears are currently being kept at bay by the presence of 2,300 American troops on the island, in addition to an ever-changing number of support personnel such as military engineers. US Army sources speculate that some of these forces will remain until at least Dec. 20, when, under the war powers act, President Reagan's ability to send in troops for 60 days without consulting Congress expires. The probability of US troops remaining in Grenada for a few more weeks was heightened when guerrilla snipers fired at US troops recently.

The soldiers continue to stop people coming into the country and at roadblocks, checking their names against a computer list of alleged former members of the PRA.

In some instances people have been detained because they have been denounced by Grenadians bearing grudges against them. There have also been some cases of mistaken identity.