BAGHDAD- Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for killing 48 Syrian soldiers and state employees in Iraq last week, saying their presence proved collusion between the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
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Unidentified gunmen last week attacked a convoy of Syrians who had fled across the border into Iraq from a Syrian rebel advance, and were being escorted back home through the western province of Anbar, Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland.
"Military detachments succeeded in annihilating an entire column of the Safavid army," al Qaeda's Iraqi wing, Islamic State of Iraq, said in a statement posted online, referring to the dynasty that ruled Shi'ite Iran from the 16th to 18th centuries. Tehran is Assad's closest regional ally.
"The lions of the desert and the men entrusted with difficult missions laid ambushes on the road leading to the crossing," it said.