Iraqi army helicopters hit what they believe was a jihadist convoy in eastern Syria yesterday, killing at least eight people, in a show of strength days before the country's national elections.
It is the first time Iraq has reported carrying out an air strike inside Syria since the three-year uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011. The conflict has spilled across the border, contributing to a rise of violence in Iraq."The army struck eight tanker trucks in Wadi Suwab inside Syrian territory as they were trying to enter Iraqi territory to provide the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant [Isis] with fuel," Iraq's interior ministry spokesman, Brigadier General Saad Maan, said. Isis, a radical Sunni group, emerged in Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003, and expanded into Syria during the uprising against Assad.
Maan said there was no co-ordination with the Syrian regime before the strike. "Our responsibility now is to protect our border and to protect the border from the other side, because there is no protection from the other side," he said.
The vehicles were apparently travelling to the western Iraqi border province of Anbar, where Isis has been battling Iraqi security forces.
Meanwhile, Iraqis living overseas began voting before Wednesday's general election in which Nouri al-Maliki is seeking a third term despite worsening sectarian tensions, rampant corruption and high unemployment.