US attacks Syria?

US aircraft crossed five miles into Syrian air space Oct. 26 and launched a raid that left at least eight dead and several more injured near the Iraqi border, Damascus charges. The Foreign Ministry summoned the US envoy in Damascus to protest “this dangerous aggression,” Syria’s state news agency Sana reported.

Sana said four US military helicopters entered Syria along the Iraqi border in Bukamal near the town of Deir Ezzor, considered a haven for Sunni insurgents infiltrating Iraq. The Sana report said the helicopters fired on civilian laborers at their jobs. Witnesses said that two helicopters landed, and eight US soldiers disembarked and stormed a building.

The Los Angeles Times identified Deir Ezzor as near the site of the September 2007 Israeli air strike on what US officials have claimed was a plutonium plant built with North Korean assistance.

In Washington, officials would neither confirm nor deny that a raid had taken place. US officials have often accused Syria of allowing Sunni insurgents to cross into Iraq. But in recent months Damascus and Washington have begun taking steps toward rapprochement. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem met briefly with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last month. (LAT, Oct. 26)

See our last post on Syria.

  1. Syria raid killed AQI operative?
    From McClatchy Newspapers, Oct. 27:

    U.S. officials say Syria raid killed terrorist leader
    WASHINGTON – A U.S. raid on a farm in eastern Syria is thought to have killed an Iraqi smuggler who oversaw the infiltration of foreign fighters into Iraq for the al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist group, a U.S. official said Monday.

    The smuggler, whom the official identified as Abu Ghadiya, was “one of the most prominent, if not the most prominent, foreign fighter facilitator” operating across the Iraq-Syrian border, said the official, who asked not to be further identified because Sunday’s operation was classified.

    “It was a successful operation,” the U.S. official told McClatchy Newspapers. “Abu Ghadiya is believed to have been killed. He was in the compound. The bottom line: this was a significant blow to the foreign fighter pipeline between Syria and Iraq.”

    The official declined to give details of the operation. A second U.S. official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that Abu Ghadiya was the target of the raid, but couldn’t confirm that he was killed.

    Abu Ghadiya is the nom de guerre of Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidih, a Sunni Muslim who was born in the late 1970s in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and was a lieutenant of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in 2006. He was believed to be living in the Syrian town of Zabadani.

    On Feb. 28, the Treasury Department charged that Abu Ghadiya and three members of his network were smuggling “money, weapons, terrorists, and other resources through Syria to al Qaida in Iraq, including to (al Qaida) commanders.”

    “Abu Ghadiya and his network go to great lengths to facilitate the flow through Syria of money, weapons, and terrorists intent on killing U.S. and Coalition forces and innocent Iraqis,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey.

    “Former al Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi appointed Badran as the group’s Syrian commander for logistics in 2004,” the Treasury said. “After Zarqawi’s death, Badran began working for the new AQI leader, Abu Ayyub al Masri. As of late-September 2006, Badran took orders directly from Masri, or through a deputy.

    “Badran obtained false passports for foreign terrorists, provided passports, weapons, guides, safe houses, and allowances to foreign terrorists in Syria and those preparing to cross the border into Iraq. Badran received several hundred thousand dollars from his cousin Saddah … and used these funds to support anti-U.S. military elements and the travel of AQI foreign fighters. Badran has also been using AQI funds for his personal use.

    “As of the spring of 2007, Badran facilitated the movement of AQI operatives into Iraq via the Syrian border. Badran also directed another Syria-based AQI facilitator to provide safe haven and supplies to foreign fighters. This AQI facilitator, working directly for Badran, facilitated the movement of foreign fighters primarily from Gulf countries, through Syria into Iraq.”

    See our last post on al-Qaeda in Iraq.