Baghdad: US raid targeted hotbed of militants on Syrian border

Other News Materials 27 October 2008 16:51 (UTC +04:00)

The Iraqi government on Monday said that it is talking to US officials over the American raid on the remote Syrian border village of Al-Sukariya and that it hoped the incident would not spoil Iraq's ties with Damascus.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh at the same time reiterated an unsourced US statement that the raid targeted a haven for a militant group which used to carry out execute deadly attacks inside Iraq, reported dpa.

The raid on Sunday was at a village close to the town of Abu Kamal, 8 kilometres inside Syria from the Iraqi border. By official Syrian accounts, eight civilians, including four children, were killed in the helicopter-borne commando raid.

So far, the US has not officially commented on the incident. But the Arab television network Al-Jazeera cited an unnamed US military official as saying that the raid by US special forces targeted al- Qaeda-linked foreign fighters who were moving through Syria into Iraq.

Al-Dabbagh explained that this group was behind the assassination of 13 Iraqis who had worked for the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

He added that Iraq had asked Syria at that time to hand over members of this group.

"Iraq is always seeking good and distinguished relations with Syria (but) the operation of some anti-Iraq groups which support terrorism against Iraqis from Syrian soil can hinder these relations," Voices of Iraq news agency quoted al-Dabbagh as saying.

The US and Iraqi government accuse Damascus of being reluctant to guard its borders and not doing enough to stop militants, including those from al-Qaeda, crossing the border into Iraq.

On the other hand, Syria says that with one million and a half refugees along its long borders with Iraq it is almost impossible to seal off the frontier.

Syrian sources also said Damascus has requested technical assistance to be able to control border with Iraq but the Americans were reluctant.

"The Americans failed to reply to all the requests by the Syrian government and to allow the Iraqis to build up security co-ordination across the border," Samir al-Taqi, director of the Orient Centre for International Studies, a Syrian think-tank, told al-Jazeera.

Both the US and Iraqi charge d'affaires in Damascus were called in to the Syrian Foreign Ministry after the incident.

The US embassy in Damascus declined to comment on the details of the meeting. However sources in the embassy told Deutsche Presse- Agentur dpa that Washington was investigating the incident.

Syrian television aired images of the site of the raid and some victims lying in bed and being hospitalized. Syria TV showed what it said was the injured wife of the building's guard, in bed in hospital with a tube in her nose, saying that two helicopters landed and two remained in the air during the attack

"This operation is a violation of the sovereignty of a free country and a crime against innocent people, thus all pretexts to justify are not acceptable " Ammar Qorby, head of the Syrian National Organisation for Human Rights, told dpa.