Reports now conflict over Syria's claim of US helicopter attack on Syrian village; village buries its dead
SUKKARIYEH, Syria (AP) — Families in this village near the Iraqi border buried loved ones Monday who they said were killed when the U.S. military launched a rare attack in Syrian territory. During the funerals, angry residents shouted anti-American slogans and carried banners reading: "Down with Bush and the American enemy." The Syrian government said four U.S. military helicopters attacked a civilian building under construction shortly before sundown Sunday in Sukkariyeh about five miles inside the Syrian border. The government statement said eight people were killed, including a man and his four children and a woman. However, local officials said seven men were killed and two other people were wounded, including a woman among the injured. An Associated Press journalist at the funerals in the village's cemetery saw the bodies of seven men — none of them minors. The discrepancy could not immediately be explained. A U.S. military official in Washington confirmed Sunday that special forces had conducted a raid in Syria that targeted the network of al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria into Iraq.
BAGHDAD: An explosion on Sunday killed nine construction workers and wounded 19 others near the border of Iraq and Syria, the police in Anbar Province said.
Local witnesses said they believed the blast was caused by American shelling, but Major General Tariq al-Youssef, the provincial police chief in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, which borders Syria, said that could not be confirmed.
The police statement did not indicate on which side of the border the blast had taken place.
Syria's state-run news channel later reported that United States helicopters had attacked an area within Syria, near the town of Abu Kamal. The official news agency, SANA, cited an anonymous official as saying four American helicopters had "launched aggression on a civilian building under construction," killing eight people, and that the Syrian deputy foreign minister had summoned the chargé d'affaires from the American and Iraqi Embassies in protest.
In Tehran, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman condemned the attack on Monday, saying a violation of the territorial integrity of any sovereign state was unacceptable, The Associated Press reported. Syria's state-run media intensified its criticism of the United States on Monday, with the government newspaper Tishrin accusing American forces of committing "a war crime," Agence-France Press said.
A senior American military official, however, said United States military helicopters were not involved in the incident.
The United States is trying to negotiate a strategic agreement with Iraq that would allow American troops to remain in the country and carry out military operations. The pact faces strenuous opposition from neighboring countries, especially Syria and Iran, because of fears that the United States might use Iraqi territory to carry out attacks on them.
The latest from YNETNEWS in Israel. GMT+2 US official confirms attack in Syria Published: 10.26.08, 23:40 / Israel News P
A US military official in Washington confirmed the helicopter raid that took place in Syria near the Iraqi border late Sunday. The official indicated the desert frontier between the two countries remains a key battleground 5 and a half years into the Iraq war. He said the attack targeted elements of a robust foreign fighter logistics network and that due to Syrian inaction the US was now "taking matters into our own hands." (AP)
UPDATE FROM TIKUM (THANKS!) 15:28 CDT/20:28 GMT
United States military helicopters bombed targets in a Syrian border town near Iraq on Sunday after Global Jihad operatives allegedly crossed the border into Syria, killing at least eight people. A US Army helicopter over... A US Army helicopter over Iraq. [illustrative] The raid, which a US military official in Washington confirmed, indicated the desert frontier between the two countries remains a key battleground 5 1/2 years into the Iraq war. The US official said the attack targeted elements of a robust foreign fighter logistics network and that due to Syrian inaction the US was now "taking matters into our own hands." Israeli defense officials said the incident was not connected to Israel and that the American troops had been chasing Global Jihad suspects in Iraq. The helicopters then crossed into Syria in pursuit of the terrorists.
UPDATE #4 17:15 CDT/2215 GMT
By Yoav Stern and News Agencies
A U.S. military official confirmed late Sunday an American helicopter attack in an area along Syria's border with Iraq, which left 8 people dead and three people wounded.
Syria condemned the attack, which it called "serious aggression."
The raid indicated the desert frontier between the two countries remains a key battleground, more than five years into the Iraq war. The U.S. official said the attack targeted elements of a robust foreign fighter logistics network and that due to Syrian inaction the U.S. was now "taking matters into our own hands."
A resident of the nearby village of Hwijeh, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said the aircraft flew along the Euphrates River into the area of farms and several brick factories.
Some of the helicopters landed and troops exiting the aircraft fired on a building, he said, adding that at least one of the dead was a construction worker.
Iraqi travelers making their way home across the border reported hearing many explosions, said Farhan al-Mahalawi, mayor of the Iraqi border town of Qaim.
The Syrian government said there were civilians among the dead, including four children.
The following was posted below by NP Member Jordan (thanks!) at 16:28 CDT/21:38 GMT
A U.S. military official said the raid by special forces targeted the foreign fighter network that travels through Syria into Iraq in an area where the Americans have been unable to shut it down because it was out of the military's reach.
"We are taking matters into our own hands," the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids.
The attack came just days after the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq said American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he called an "uncontrolled" gateway for fighters entering Iraq.
BAGHDAD — An explosion on Sunday killed 9 construction workers and wounded 19 others in the Mishahda region, which lies on the border between Iraq and Syria, the police in Ramadi announced.
Local witnesses said they believed the blast was caused by American shelling, but Maj. Gen. Tariq al-Youssef, the police chief of Anbar Province, which borders Syria, said that could not be confirmed. Syria’s state-run news channel later reported that United States helicopters had attacked an area along the Syrian-Iraqi border, near the town of Abu Kamal, and its official news agency, SANA, cited an anonymous official as saying four American helicopters had “launched aggression on a civilian building under construction,” killing eight people. The United States military did not immediately comment on the attack.
The Syrian deputy foreign minister summoned the Charges d’affairs from the United States and Iraqi Embassies in protest, SANA reported.
The Syrian report comes just days after the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq told reporters that American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he said was an "uncontrolled" gateway for fighters entering Iraq.
A government statement carried by the official Syrian Arab News Agency said Sunday's attack was on the Sukkariyeh Farm near the town of Abu Kamal, five miles inside the Syrian border. Four helicopters attacked a civilian building under construction, firing on the workers inside, shortly before sundown, the statement said.
By Our Foreign Staff
Last Updated: 6:50PM GMT 26 Oct 2008
Media reports gave conflicting accounts of the incident, which they said had involved an air strike on civilians.
State television, quoting unnamed officials, said that an attack took place near the Syrian border town of Abu Kamal. It gave no further details on the incident.
The private television channel al-Dunia said that nine people had been killed when an unknown number of American helicopters attacked the village of Al-Sukkiraya.
"Nine people were killed and 14 wounded in the raid, which hit a group of builders while they were working," the television station said. "All victims were civilians."
Local residents told the Associated Press that two helicopters carrying US soldiers raided the village of Hwijeh, 10 miles inside Syria's border. They claimed that seven people had been killed and five others wounded innthe attack.
Sgt Brooke Murphy, a US military spokesman in Baghdad, said that commanders were investigating the reports.
If confirmed, a US strike inside Syria is likely to have been targeting al-Qaeda operatives. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the regional terrorist group allied to so-called "core al-Qaeda" based in Pakistan, has operated across the Syria-Iraq border in recent years.