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Baghdad (AFP) March 4, 2013
Baghdad will resist any attempts to spread the bloody conflict in Syria to Iraq, the prime minister's spokesman said on Monday, after gunmen killed 48 Syrian soldiers and nine Iraqi soldiers in an ambush.
"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 Nuri al-Maliki's spokesman, told AFP, putting the toll from Monday's ambush at 48 Syrian soldiers and nine Iraqi soldiers killed.
The Syrian soldiers crossed into Iraq from the Yaarubiyeh border crossing, the scene of fighting on Saturday between rebels and troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Khalaf al-Dulaimi told AFP.
The soldiers were first transported by Iraqi authorities to Baghdad from the northern Nineveh province, bordering Yaarubiyeh, and were on their way to being handed over to Syrian authorities on the border with Anbar province when their convoy was ambushed, he said.
Armed men attacked from two sides with mortar rounds, automatic weapons and mines.
Baghdad has pointedly avoided calling for the departure of Assad, who is locked in a bloody civil war with rebels opposed to his regime, and has instead urged an end to violence by all parties.
But US officials have repeatedly called on the Iraqi government to halt Iranian overflights to Syria via Iraqi airspace that they say are transporting weapons to Assad's forces.
Iraq says Syria 'terrorist group' behind ambush
The ambush was carried out "by a terrorist group that infiltrated into Iraqi territory coming from Syria," the ministry said on its website.
It said a number of unarmed and wounded Syrian soldiers had fled to Iraq for medical treatment and were being transferred to Al-Walid border crossing to be returned to Syria through "official channels."
But they were ambushed on the way, in what the ministry termed "an attack against the sovereignty of Iraq, its land, and its dignity, and a clear violation of human rights, as (the soldiers) were wounded and unarmed."
The ministry also issued a warning to all sides in the Syria conflict "against moving their armed conflict to Iraqi territory and violating Iraq's borders."
Baghdad has pointedly avoided calling for the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is locked in a bloody civil war with rebels opposed to his regime, and has instead urged an end to violence by all parties.
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