April 28, 2008 / 7:24 AM / 11 years ago

N.Koreans may have died in Israel raid in Syria: NHK

This undated image released by the U.S. Government shows a building after it was bombed in Syria. The White House on April 24, 2008 broke its official silence on the mysterious September 6, 2007 Israeli air strike. "We are convinced, based on a variety of information, that North Korea assisted Syria's covert nuclear activities," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement. The statement came after intelligence officials briefed U.S. lawmakers about the Syrian nuclear facility that was destroyed by Israel last year. REUTERS/U.S. Government/Handout

TOKYO (Reuters) - Ten North Koreans helping build a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria may have died in an Israeli air raid last September, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said on Monday, citing South Korean intelligence officials.

The report follows the release of photographs by the United States last week of what it said was a Syrian nuclear reactor capable of producing plutonium built with North Korean help.

Israel destroyed the suspected reactor in a September 6 air strike.

NHK said the dead included officials of the North Korea’s communist party unit that exports weapons and military technology and members of the North Korean military unit which made nuclear facilities in the country.

Two or three North Koreans survived the air strike but it is not clear what happened to them afterwards, NHK reported.

Syria has denied the U.S. charge as “a fantasy”.

Pyongyang has been reluctant to discuss any transfer of nuclear technology to other countries, notably Syria, as well as to account for its suspected pursuit of uranium enrichment.

Reporting by Yoko Kubota

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