- Associated Press - Thursday, July 5, 2012

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s top diplomat said Thursday he had “solid information” that al Qaeda militants were crossing from Iraq to Syria to carry out attacks, warning of a violent spillover that could shake the Middle East.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Baghdad had for years urged Damascus to clamp down on militant traffic as Sunni fighters headed from Syria to aid the Iraqi insurgency.

“Now their direction is the other way around,” Mr. Zebari told reporters in Baghdad.

“We have solid information and intelligence that members of al Qaeda’s terrorist network have gone to Syria,” he said without elaborating. “Our main concern, to be honest with you, is about the spillover – about extremist, terrorist groups taking root in neighboring countries.”


Mr. Zebari also blamed a recent surge of violence in Iraq on the months-long political crisis that has gripped the country. Militants have carried out major bombings and shootings at least every three days since the start of June, killing nearly 300 people.

Among the chief targets have been Shiite pilgrims, security forces and government officials, groups that al Qaeda-linked Sunni insurgents frequently attack to destabilize the government and try to stoke retaliatory violence between the wider Sunni and Shiite communities.

On Thursday, explosions in two Iraqi cities – Baghdad and Mosul in the nation’s north – killed at least six people and wounded 17.

Police say a bomb detonated at the home of an Iraqi government official killed his wife and two daughters in Baghdad. Senior city government official Ali Abdul-Amir, a Shiite, was wounded along with his two sons in the strike in the Sunni-dominated western neighborhood of Ghazaliyah. Hospital officials confirmed the deaths.

In the central city of Mosul, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives belt at the door of a barber shop frequented by Iraqi police and soldiers. Police and health officials said three died, including an off-duty soldier, and 14 others were wounded in the attack 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.

All officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

While terror attacks have been a fact of life for Iraqis for years, the pace and magnitude of the attacks have increased in recent weeks. In the months before U.S. troops left on Dec. 18, extremists were launching large-scale attacks only every few weeks, indicating they needed time in between to coordinate and gather explosives.