DUBAI (Reuters) – The Iraqi government said on Sunday that half the Sunni Muslim militants behind the bombings shaking the country had arrived through neighboring Syria.
The United States and Iraqi officials have long accused Iraq’s neighbors, particularly Syria and Iran, of failing to stop Islamic militants from crossing into Iraq to carry out attacks.
U.S. and Iraqi officials say many of the insurgents responsible for the violence are not Iraqis.
“We have confirmation that 50 percent of these takfiris and killers who call themselves Arab jihadists come across the Syrian border,” Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Al Arabiya TV, referring to radical Sunnis whose ideology brands some Muslims as infidels and allows their killing.
“Syria closes its eyes. As we have said before and we say again today, we are facing a bloody and painful day for us in Iraq as a result of Syria’s lack of seriousness in controlling the border.”
Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government on Sunday renewed its pledge to crack down on Saddam Hussein supporters and Sunni militants after a truck bomb killed 135 people in a mainly Shi’ite area of Baghdad in the deadliest single attack since the 2003 invasion.
Around 1,000 people have been killed across Iraq in the past week in suicide bombings, shootings and fighting between militants and security forces, according to figures compiled by Reuters from official sources.
Syria says it is doing its best to control its border with Iraq.
“The Syrian regime has strong intelligence (agencies) and no bird can fly over the Golan Heights but when it comes to … the Iraqi side they say they do not have the equipment or don’t have this or that,” Dabbagh said.
A militant group linked to al Qaeda — the Islamic State in Iraq — vowed in a Web recording on Saturday to widen its attacks to all parts of Iraq rather than focusing on Baghdad.
Washington is sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq mainly to help quell violence in Baghdad. The planned Baghdad offensive is seen as a last-ditch effort to stem worsening bloodshed between Shi’ites and minority Sunnis.