Syria Protests U.S. Raid To U.N., Orders Closures

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, October 29, 2008

KUWAIT CITY, Oct. 28 -- Syria protested a deadly U.S. raid into its territory to the United Nations on Tuesday, saying those killed were "innocent civilians," and announced it was closing an American school and cultural center in its capital.

A government spokesman for Iraq, from which U.S. forces launched Sunday's raid, joined Syria in condemning the U.S. incursion. "The Iraqi government rejects U.S. aircraft bombarding posts inside Syria," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in Baghdad.

U.S. military officials said Monday that American forces flew by helicopter about four miles into Syria on Sunday, targeting the leader of a smuggling network used to funnel fighters, arms and money into Iraq. The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said U.S. forces shot dead several armed men and wounded or killed the targeted man, whom they identified as a leader of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.

In a letter Tuesday to leaders of the United Nations and U.N. Security Council, Syria said the eight people killed in the raid were civilians, including a woman and one man killed with his four sons, Syria's state-run news agency said. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem had said Monday that seven civilians died in the raid.

In the same letter, Syria urged Iraq to investigate the U.S. raid and said the attack came as Syria had been increasing efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.

"In this regard, we refer that this unjustified act of aggression comes at a time when the Iraqi and US sides recognize Syria's efforts exerted to preserve Iraq security and prevent any illegal infiltrations into its territories," the letter said. The Syrian news agency did not specify which Syrian officials signed the communication.

Underscoring the possibility that the raid could hinder U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq, Syria on Tuesday indefinitely postponed Syrian-Iraqi talks on regional cooperation that had been set for Nov. 12 in Baghdad.

Syria's cabinet on Tuesday ordered the closing of an American school, one of many such schools around the world that provide education in English for local and foreign children, and a cultural center linked to the U.S. Embassy. Both closings in Damascus were to stand "until further notice," the state news agency said.

Syria has a small American community that includes people who travel to the country to study Arabic.

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