49 Syrian and Iraqi Troops Killed in Border Ambush

Fears increase that civil war will spill over into Iraq

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 4, 2013 1:20 PM CST

(Newser) – At least 42 Syrian soldiers and seven Iraqi soldiers were killed in an ambush near a border crossing in Iraq today, sharpening fears that Syria's civil war could spill into Iraq and destabilize the region, the AP reports. The Syrian soldiers (Reuters reports the group also included government employees) had sought refuge in Iraq after the Syrian side of the border crossing was seized by the opposition; the group was being escorted back into Syria when they were attacked with bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, and guns.

The identities of the gunmen aren't known, but officials have accused al-Qaeda in Iraq of planning the ambush, since Syrian rebels were unlikely to have been able to cross the border and carry out the attack. Sporadic clashes between the Syrian army and the opposition have been reported near the Rabiya border crossing, where the Syrian soldiers initially sought refuge, and a number of Syrians have sought refuge in Iraq. Officials have been concerned about the violence spilling over into Iraq for some time; on Friday a rocket reportedly hit Iraq from Syria, but no injuries were reported.

An Iraqi soldier stands guard in al-Walid border crossing, west of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, July 21, 2012.
An Iraqi soldier stands guard in al-Walid border crossing, west of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, July 21, 2012.   (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
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