BAGHDAD, March 11 (Xinhua) -- The al-Qaida militant group on Monday claimed responsibility for an attack on an Iraqi army convoy escorting a bus carrying Syrian soldiers in west of Iraq that killed 48 soldiers.
The self-styled Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), al-Qaida front in Iraq, confirmed in a statement posted on an Islamic website that its fighters in the desert of Anbar province "entirely destroyed the convoy of the Safavid (Iraqi) army with the buses carrying members of the Nusairi (Syrian) army."
The Safavid refers to the Iranian dynasty (1499-1736) that established Shiite Islam in Iran as an official state religion and frequently fought the Islamic Sunni world, while the Nusairi is a derogatory term refers to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
The statement said the attack came after al-Qaida intelligence followed the transfer of the Syrian soldiers who resorted to the Iraqi army following a battle with the Syrian rebels who seized a border crossing point with Iraq's northern province of Nineveh.
On March 4, the Iraqi authorities in Anbar province put the death toll of the attack at 35 Syrian soldiers, but later the Iraqi Defense Ministry said that up to 48 Syrian soldiers and nine Iraqi soldiers were killed during the attack.
On March 2, the Syrian opposition forces took control of the Syrian side of al-Yaroubiyah border crossing point after fierce clashes with the Syrian army, forcing some Syrian soldiers to cross into the Iraqi side, according to local media.