Conflict & Justice

42 Syrian soldiers killed in Anbar, Iraq


Rebels fighters prepare to fire a portable canon against an adjacent Syrian government-held building during fighting on February 27, 2013 in the Hawiqah neighbourhood of the eastern Syrian town of Deir Ezzor. Syria's opposition and foreign powers hold crucial talks in Rome with Washington suggesting it is ready to boost support to rebels in their struggle against President Bashar al-Assad.

At least 42 Syrian soldiers and government officials were attacked and killed Monday as they fled across the border into Iraq, officials in Baghdad said.

The group was escaping an attack by anti-government rebels and seeking refuge in the western Iraqi province of Anbar when the ambush occurred, Reuters reported.

According to the news agency, the bloodshed happened in an area where thousands of Iraqi Sunnis had been protesting daily for more than two months against the Shi'ite-led government and the perceived marginalization of their sect.

"The incident took place in Akashat when the convoy carrying the Syrian soldiers and employees was on its way to the al-Waleed border crossing," a senior Iraqi official told Reuters.

"Gunmen set up an ambush and killed 40 of them, plus some Iraqi soldiers who were protecting the convoy."

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Seven Iraqis were among those killed and a further four were wounded, security officers said, AFP reported.

The unidentified armed men attacked the convoy from two sides with mortar rounds, automatic weapons and mines.

The Iraqi officials told Reuters the latest ambush came after about 65 Syrian soldiers and government employees had handed themselves over to Iraq on Friday.