Qaeda Claims deadly Attack on
Syrian, Iraqi SoldiersIslamic State of Iraq claims attack on convoy in Anbar
province that killed 48 Syrian soldiers, 9 Iraqi guards. Baghdad
is caught between conflicting pressures over SyriaMiddle East Online BAGHDAD:
front group the Islamic State of Iraq claimed an attack on a convoy in west Iraq
that killed 48 Syrian soldiers and nine Iraqi guards, in a statement posted on
jihadist forums on Monday.
The soldiers, who were wounded and received
treatment in Iraq, were being transported through the western province of Anbar
on their way back to Syria when the attack took place on March 4, according to
the Iraqi defence ministry.
But the ministry blamed the attack on a
"terrorist group that infiltrated into Iraqi territory coming from
The statement on jihadist forums said that Islamic
State of Iraq fighters were able to destroy a column of "the Safavid army with
its associated vehicles" carrying "members of the Nusairi army and Syrian regime
Safavid is a word implying Shiites are under
Iranian control, while Nusairi is a derogatory term for Alawites, the sect to
which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad belongs, and shabiha is a name used for
Syrian pro-regime militia forces.
Baghdad has consistently avoided joining calls for
the departure of Assad, against whom rebels are battling, instead saying it
opposes arming either side and urging an end to the violence that has ravaged
Syria for the past two years, leaving at least 70,000 people dead.
But the deadly ambush in its territory threatens
to entangle Iraq in the Syrian conflict.
Baghdad is caught between conflicting pressures
over Syria -- its powerful eastern neighbour, Shiite Iran, backs Assad's regime,
while the United States and many Arab states want the Syrian president to bow to
opposition demands and step down.
The March 4 ambush was not, however, the first
time the conflict has crossed the border into Iraq.
Fire from Syria killed an Iraqi soldier in the
country's north on March 2 and a young girl in western Iraq in September.
US officials have also repeatedly called on Iraq
to stop allowing overflights by Iranian planes that Washington says are being
used to transport weapons to Assad's forces.
On March 3, the Syrian National Council, a key
opposition group, alleged that Iraq "gave political and intelligence support to
the Syrian regime."
And like other countries bordering Syria, Iraq has
seen the arrival of a flood of refugees fleeing the conflict -- more than
109,000, according to the United Nations, most of whom are located in northern
and western Iraq.