— By Inal Ersan
DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria said on Monday U.S. and British
aircraft bombed a bus carrying Syrian civilian workers returning
home from Iraq, killing five and injuring an unspecified number in
what it described as a "criminal act."
"U.S. and British aircraft bombed a Syrian civilian bus carrying
Syrian workers working in Iraq on their way to Syria. This criminal
act resulted in the death of five of the Syrian citizens and the
injury of others," an official statement said.
The U.S. and British envoys to Damascus were summoned to the
Foreign Ministry and handed an official protest, the statement said,
noting that Syria reserved the right to seek compensation.
"This act represents a breach of the 1949 Geneva convention on
protecting civilians during war...therefore the Syrian Arab Republic
condemns this act and reserves the right to demand compensation in
line with international law," it said.
An earlier report from the official Syrian Arab News Agency
(SANA) said a U.S. plane had fired a missile at a bus carrying 37
Syrians, killing five and wounding at least 10.
SANA said the incident occurred on Sunday morning in Iraq's
al-Rutbeh area, some 160 km (100 miles) from the Syrian border.
The bodies of the dead were taken to a Damascus hospital,
hospital director Abdullah al-Asali told Reuters. "The deaths were
caused by an explosion... We saw shrapnel wounds and distortions due
to an explosion," he said.
A bus passenger interviewed by Syrian television said the bus was
part of a convoy of three heading to Syria. "An aircraft fired a
missile at us. Some survived, others were hit," he said.
Another passenger told the television the passengers did not see
the aircraft, but "we heard its roar. It must have been flying at
A Syrian source told Reuters the bus passengers were young,
apparently laborers returning home after war started.
Syria, the only current Arab member of the United Nations
Security Council, has been a staunch opponent of the U.S.-led war on
fellow Arab state Iraq.
Oil-rich Iraq has attracted laborers from Arab and Asian
countries for years, despite crippling economic sanctions imposed on
Baghdad for its 1990-91 occupation of Kuwait.
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