Many of the details of Abu Kamal Raid remain controversial and unconfirmed, but the bare outlines are these.
On the late afternoon or early evening of Oct. 26, 2008, a team of some two dozen special operations forces — some sources suggest CIA SAD agents, others a Delta Force team — flew into Syria to a location where intelligence indicated the presence of Abu Ghadiya and several members of his Al Qaeda-affiliated smuggling network.
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American officials had been concerned for years by the ability of networks like Ghadiya’s to operate with impunity inside Syria’s borders and easily smuggle assistance, including fighters, into Iraq to support the ongoing insurgency there.
Since Ghadiya’s group also opposed the Assad regime in Syria, several sources suggest that the Syrians provided some of the intelligence used during the U.S. raid, making their condemnation of the American action after the event more than a little hypocritical.
When the Black Hawks arrived at their target, a building under construction in the small town of Sukkariyah in eastern Syria near the larger town of Abu Kamal, they immediately came under fire, including deadly RPGs (The original plan had apparently been to slip in and grab Ghadiya with minimal violence).
Two of the helicopters inserted the special operations forces on the ground while the other two provided covering fire. The fierce firefight that followed resulted in seven (or eight) Syrian deaths and none on the American side.
U.S. officials, less than forthcoming about the raid, claim that seven Syrians were killed — all of them part of the target network — including Ghadiya himself, whose body, these sources claim, was taken on board one of the helicopters when the special forces departed the scene.
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The Syrian government professed outrage over the raid and the violation of its national sovereignty, claiming that eight Syrians were killed, all of them civilians. While there may have been civilian casualties, it is hard to understand why a group of civilians would be armed with RPG launchers or would have been able to engage in an extended firefight with special forces.
The death or possible capture of Ghadiya in the raid remains one of the operation’s most disputed elements.
Just The Facts
Dates: October 26, 2008
Location: Sukkariyah, a small village near Abu Kamal in east-central Syria, near the Syrian border with Iraq
U.S. Forces: CIA SAD agents or Delta Force, unconfirmed
Enemy/Target: Network of militants led by Abu Ghadiya and associated with Al Qaeda, who were smuggling guns, money, and terrorists into Iraq
Equipment: Four helicopters, believed to be MH-60 Black Hawks