BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's prime minister warned Saturday that weapons and fighters flowing into Syria are now making their way to Iraq, as a rising tide of violence sweeps across the country.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that weapons provided by some countries to the Syrian rebels and foreign fighters attempting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, are now ending up in Iraq.
"The weapons provided to those killers in Syria have been smuggled to Iraq and those wolves that came from different countries to Syria are now sneaking into Iraq," he said during a youth gathering.
Al-Maliki said that this movement of weapons and fighters is adding to the violence hitting his country.
Iraq officially remains neutral in the Syrian conflict. The Shiite-led government in Baghdad has repeatedly called for a peaceful, political solution to the crisis, though it has also warned that a victory for the rebels would unleash sectarian war in Iraq and Lebanon.
The long and porous Iraqi-Syrian border runs along Iraq's Sunni-dominated provinces of Anbar and Ninevah, and was a key conduit for arms and al-Qaida fighters in the years following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Centuries-old cultural and tribal affiliations span the loosely defended desert frontier.
Iraqi border guards frequently clash with militants and smugglers who are attempting to move across the borders.
In Saturday's violence, gunmen opened fire on an army checkpoint just south of Baghdad, killing four soldiers and wounding four others.