Iraq says the deadly ambush on Syrian soldiers in western Iraq, near the border with Syria, was carried out by a Syria-based terrorist group.
The Iraqi Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday that the ambush was conducted “by a terrorist group that infiltrated into Iraqi territory coming from Syria.”
The Iraqi government’s reaction came after an unknown number of gunmen ambushed Syrian soldiers with bombs, gunfire, and rocket-propelled grenades in an assault that killed 48 Syrian soldiers and nine Iraqi border guards.
The ministry called the incident an attack on Iraq’s sovereignty and an act of violation of human rights.
Iraqi officials already said Baghdad would not allow the Syrian crisis to spill over into their country.
“This confirms our fears of the attempt of some to move the conflict to Iraq, but we will face these attempts by all sides with all of our power,” Ali Mussawi, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s spokesman, said of the ambush.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of Army and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.
The Syrian government has said that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and that a very large number of the militants operating in the country are foreign nationals.
Several international human rights organizations have accused foreign-sponsored militants of committing war crimes.
In an interview recently broadcast on German television, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that the government did not start the conflict and the militant groups were the ones killing Syrian citizens and destroying the country’s infrastructure.