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March 24, 2003
 
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Syria Says U.S.-Led Forces Killed Five Syrians

Reuters


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March 24

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 high altitude."

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.

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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