By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, October 27, 2008
BAGHDAD, Oct. 26 -- Four U.S. helicopters flew into Syrian airspace Sunday afternoon and opened fire, killing eight people near the border with Iraq, the Syrian government said.
The reported operation in al-Boukamal, roughly six miles from the border with Iraq, occurred about 4:45 p.m., the Syrian Arab News Agency reported, citing an unnamed government source.
U.S. attacks inside Syria are extremely rare, though the U.S. military has stepped up security along Iraq's border with Syria in recent months to stem the traffic of fighters and weapons into Iraq. U.S. officials say many insurgents, particularly suicide bombers, arrive in Iraq via the Syrian border.
The U.S. military in Baghdad did not respond to an inquiry about the reported operation. A spokeswoman for the State Department, Joanne Moore, declined to comment.
But the Associated Press quoted an unnamed U.S. military official as saying the Special Forces raid had targeted a network of foreign fighters that regularly crosses the border. "We are taking matters into our own hands," the official told the Associated Press, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The Syrian press report said pilots opened fire on a building under construction. It provided names for three of the people it said were killed. A man identified as Daoud Mohammad al-Abdullah and his four sons were among the dead, the agency said. The others were identified as Ahmad Khalefa, Ali Abbas and his wife.
"The aggressive helicopters later left for the Iraqi lands," the report said.
Syria summoned the top U.S. diplomat in Syria, Charge d'Affaires Maura Connelly, to notify her of "Syria's condemnation and complaint of this dangerous aggression," the report said.
Syria also called on the Iraqi government to launch an investigation into the incident and condemned the United States's use of Iraq as a launchpad for military operations in Syria.