Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the regional faction of the terrorist organization, has claimed credit for last week’s ambush in Akashat, which killed 48 Syrian soldiers as well as nine Iraqi guards who were ferrying them back to Syria.
The troops had fled Syria into the Iraqi town of Rabia after rebels took the northern border crossing. After receiving medical treatment they were to be returned through a more southerly crossing still under government control.
AQI’s statement says that they “succeeding in annihilating an entire column of the Safavid Army.” The Safavids were a Persian dynasty that spread Shi’ism across modern day Iraq and parts of Syria.
AQI’s interest in the Syrian civil war cannot be understated, and US officials have said they believe the Jabrat al-Nusra, one of the most significant Syrian rebel factions, is essentially just a rebranded wing of AQI operating inside Syria.
While the US is normally reluctant to complain about attacks on Syrian government forces, the State Department did concede the AQI attack was an “act of terrorism” since the Syrian troops were unarmed non-combatants at the time.