US soldiers attacked building inside Syria: report
Agence France-Presse
Published: Sunday October 26, 2008

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DAMASCUS (AFP) American helicopter-borne troops launched an assault on Sunday on a building in a Syrian border village with Iraq, killing eight civilians, official Syrian media reported.

"Four American helicopters violated Syrian airspace around 16:45 local time (1345 GMT) on Sunday," state television and the official SANA news agency said.

"American soldiers" who had emerged from helicopters "attacked a civilian building under construction and fired at workmen inside, causing eight deaths," the reports said.

"The helicopters then left Syrian territory towards Iraqi territory," SANA said.

Earlier, the private television channel al-Dunia said nine civilians died in the attack on the village of Al-Sukkiraya, around 550 kilometres (340 miles) northeast of the capital in the Abu Kamal area.

"We are in the process of investigating this," Sergeant Brooke Murphy, a US military spokeswoman, told AFP in Baghdad.

US commanders say Syria is the main transit point for foreign jihadists crossing into Iraq. Washington has blamed Damascus for turning a blind eye to the problem.

On October 16 Iraqi forces arrested seven Syrian "terrorist" suspects at a checkpoint near the city of Baquba, a hub of Al-Qaeda fighters, the Baghdad defence ministry said.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told US President George W. Bush last month that Iran and Syria -- long targets of US blame over the deadly unrest in Iraq -- no longer pose a problem.

Iraqi officials have also said that Syria has been increasing border security.

Syria's first ambassador to Iraq in 26 years took up his post in Baghdad this month, marking the official end of more than two decades of icy relations.

On September 28 US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirmed she had met her Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem, to discuss Middle East peace efforts despite renewed criticism from Washington over Syrian policies.

Syrian and US diplomats said the talks touched on Iraq, Lebanon and Middle East peace negotiations.

It was Rice's second meeting with Muallem since November 2007 when they held talks on the sidelines of a conference on Iraq. The two first met in May last year during another gathering on Iraq.

Their talks came after US President George W. Bush slammed Syria in his farewell address to the UN General Assembly.

"A few nations -- regimes like Syria and Iran -- continue to sponsor terror," Bush charged.

Washington has also accused Damascus of failing to give adequate cooperation to the International Atomic Energy Agency in its investigation into a mystery facility bombed by Israel in September last year that US officials have charged was a nuclear plant.

Chilly relations between Syria and the United States grew more tense after Washington accused Damascus of being behind the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. here.