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Iraq increasingly drawn into Syrian battlefield

BAGHDAD — Signs are growing that stretches of Iraq and Syria are morphing into a single battlefield for militants, exacerbating Iraq's slide into renewed deadly chaos a year and a half after U.S. troops pulled out.

Iraqi border posts along the Syrian frontier are coming under attack, and Syrian truck drivers have been singled out and shot inside Iraq. Syrian soldiers earlier this year sought refuge across the border, only to be massacred by al-Qaida.

Combat-hardened Iraqi fighters, meanwhile, are crisscrossing the frontier. Al-Qaida-linked Sunni militants are cooperating with hard-line Islamists among the Syrian rebels, while Iraqi Shiite fighters are joining militiamen from Lebanon's Hezbollah to fight alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad's Iranian-backed regime. U.S. officials believe Iranian arms are still being shuttled to Damascus through Iraqi airspace.

"What is going on in Syria has a big, clear impact on us ... especially since there are attempts to move the battle to Iraq," said Ali al-Moussawi, spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

It's happening as the deadly drumbeat of violence is growing louder across Iraq. Nearly 2,000 lives have been violently snuffed out across the country since the start of April.

The extent of the killing hasn't been this bad for half a decade, when Iraq's last tip toward civil war was easing and American troops were still here to help keep the peace. Attackers killed more than 60 people in a relentless wave of bombings on Monday. Another nine were slain Tuesday.