DAMASCUS: (Agencies-26/10/2008): A U.S. military official said U.S. military helicopters launched and attack by special forces targeting the network of al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria into Iraq. He added that The Americans have been unable to shut the network down in the area struck because Syria was out of the military’s reach.
"We are taking matters into our own hands," the official told The Associated Press in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids.
The U.S. military in Baghdad did not immediately respond to a request for comment after Sunday’s raid Syria‘s Foreign Ministry said it summoned the U.S. and Iraqi charges d’affaires to protest against the strike.
"Syria condemns this aggression and holds the American forces responsible for this aggression and all its repercussions. Syria also calls on the Iraqi government to shoulder its responsibilities and launch an immediate investigation into this serious violation and prevent the use of Iraqi territory for aggression against Syria," the government statement said
On Thursday, U.S. Maj. Gen. John Kelly said Iraq’s western borders with Saudi Arabia and Jordan were fairly tight as a result of good policing by security forces in those countries but that Syria was a "different story."
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem accused the United States earlier this year of not giving his country the equipment needed to prevent foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq. He said Washington feared Syria could use such equipment against Israel.
The president of the National Organization for Human Rights, Amar Qurbi described the raid as a crime against Syrian citizens and a violation of the sovereignty of and independent UN member country and called for an international condemnation of the crime.
The raid was close to the border with Iraq.
A Syrian government statement said the helicopters attacked the Sukkariyeh Farm near the town of Abu Kamal, five miles inside the Syrian border. Four helicopters attacked a civilian building under construction shortly before sundown and fired on workers inside, the statement said.
The government said civilians were among the dead, including four children. A resident of the nearby village of Hwijeh in Iraq said some of the helicopters landed and troops exited the aircraft and fired on a building. He said the aircraft flew along the Euphrates River into the area of farms and several brick factories. The witness spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, there have been some instances in which American troops crossed areas of the 370-mile Syria-Iraq border in pursuit of militants, or warplanes violated Syria’s airspace. But Sunday’s raid was the first conducted by aircraft and on such a large scale. In May 2005, Syria said American fire killed a border guard.