BAGHDAD (AP) — Syrian warplanes bombed Sunni militants' positions inside Iraq, military officials confirmed Wednesday, deepening the concerns that the extremist insurgency that spans the two neighboring countries could morph into an even wider regional conflict. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned against the threat and said other nations should stay out.
Meanwhile, a new insurgent artillery offensive against Christian villages in the north of Iraq sent thousands of Christians fleeing from their homes, seeking sanctuary in Kurdish-controlled territory, Associated Press reporters who witnessed the scene said.
The United States government and a senior Iraqi military official confirmed that Syrian warplanes bombed militants' positions Tuesday in and near the border crossing in the town of Qaim. Iraq's other neighbors — Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — were all bolstering flights just inside their airspace to monitor the situation, said the Iraqi official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
American officials said the target was the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Sunni extremist group that has seized large swathes of Iraq and seeks to carve out a purist Islamic enclave across both sides of the Syria-Iraq border.
"We've made it clear to everyone in the region that we don't need anything to take place that might exacerbate the sectarian divisions that are already at a heightened level of tension," Kerry said, speaking in Brussels at a meeting of diplomats from NATO nations. "It's already important that nothing take place that contributes to the extremism or could act as a flash point with respect to the sectarian divide."