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Al Qaeda claims responsibility for attack on Syrian convoy

By Salma Abdelaziz and Ed Payne, CNN
March 11, 2013 -- Updated 0758 GMT (1558 HKT)
Gunmen attacked a convoy ferrying Syrian soldiers near the western Iraqi town of Ar Rutbah.
Gunmen attacked a convoy ferrying Syrian soldiers near the western Iraqi town of Ar Rutbah.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Al Qaeda claim appears on jihadist forums
  • The Syrian convoy was ambushed by gunmen using roadside bombs and machine guns
  • The violence raises concerns that Syria's civil war could spill over into Iraq

(CNN) -- Al Qaeda is claiming responsibility for the destruction of a Syrian Army convoy in western Iraq last week that killed some 48 Syrians and nine Iraqi soldiers.

The militant group released a statement on jihadist forums Monday.

The group claims it intercepted the convoy while the Syrian troops were on their way to camps secretly provided by the Iraqi government. The militants said everyone in the convoy was killed.

The attack has raised concerns that Syria's civil war could spill over into Iraq.

Syria violence spills into Iraq
Syrian soldiers reported killed in Iraq

"From the beginning, we have warned that some militant groups want to move the conflict in Syria to Iraq," Ali al-Mussawi, an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said last week. "Militant groups are very active on the border areas between Iraq and Syria."

Al-Mussawi said that many of the Syrians killed in the ambush had earlier received medical treatment in Iraq. They were wounded during a battle at the Yaarabiya-Rabia border crossing. The point is called Rabia in Iraq; Yaarabiya in Syria.

Dozens of Syrian soldiers and officials took refuge in Iraq by surrendering to that country's army on March 1 after rebels took over the Yaarabiya post, Iraqi security officials said. They added that the convoy had been headed from Rabia to the al-Waleed border crossing in Iraq's Anbar province when it was attacked.

The United Nations has estimated that about 70,000 people have been killed in Syria's civil war, which began roughly two years ago.

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