Syrian officials claim the US military conducted a cross-border raid into Syria from Iraqi territory.
The raid was reportedly carried out in the town of Sukkariya near Albu Kamal in eastern Syria. According to witnesses, four US helicopters crossed the border and two of the helicopters landed to drop off special operations forces.
Syrian television claimed nine people were killed and 14 were wounded during the raid. Syria claimed of those killed and wounded were construction workers.
The raid occurred close to the main border crossing point between Iraq and Syria. Al Qaeda declared an Islamic Emirate in Al Qaim right along the Iraqi border during the spring of 2005. Al Qaeda terrorized the local tribes and attempted to institute a Taliban-like rule. Al Qaim was the main infiltration route into Iraq until US Marines and Iraqi troops launched a campaign to dislodge al Qaeda from the region.
The US has neither confirmed nor denied the operation took place. If the attack occurred, it would have been carried out by Task Force 88, the special operations hunt-killer teams assigned to target al Qaeda operatives as well as Shia terrorists in Iraq.
The US has shied away from conducting strikes inside Syria in the past. If confirmed this would be the first such strike inside Syria since the US invaded Iraq in March of 2003.
Syria has sheltered Iraqi insurgents and foreign al Qaeda fighters, and allowed the groups to run camps inside the country. Syria also facilitates the movement of foreign fighters into the country and across the border into Iraq.
If the raid occurred, the US military must have detected a senior member of al Qaeda in Iraq in the region. Abu Ayyub al Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, is reported to have left the country earlier this year after the terror group lost its sanctuaries in Diyala province.
The US military may be closing in on al Qaeda’s senior leadership. US forces killed Abu Qaswarah, al Qaeda in Iraq’s second in command, during a raid in Mosul in northern Iraq on Oct. 15. The military has also killed and captured numerous al Qaeda leader and couriers over the past several weeks. The information obtained during these raids help to paint a picture of al Qaeda’s command structure inside of of Iraq as well as in neighboring countries.