Middle East

Nusra Front posts video of 'capture' of US-trained rebels

Fighters from Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Nusra Front drive in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo flying Islamist flags as they head to a frontline, on May 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO / AMC / FADI AL-HALABI

BEIRUT: Al-Qaeda's Syria branch has posted a video purportedly showing its capture last week of members of a U.S.-trained rebel force it accuses of aiding U.S.-led airstrikes against its fighters.

The Pentagon denied Thursday that any graduates of its training program for moderate rebels had been captured in Syria.

But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that eight members of the 54-strong Division 30 unit inserted into Aleppo province in mid-July were being held by Al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front.

The video released by Nusra on its YouTube account Saturday appears to show at least some of the captured rebel fighters.

It depicts five men walking through a field in a straight line, hands behind their heads, supervised by one hooded man and one armed man.

One of the apparently detained men tells the camera he was recruited by the U.S., through intermediaries, to receive training in Turkey for a month and a half.

He said the trainees were each given an M16 assault rifle and some cash to "fight Nusra" in Syria.

A hooded man identifying himself as an Nusra member said the jihadi group had "cut the hand of the West and the Americans in Syria" by capturing the men.

"Their collaboration with the West is clear," he said, accusing the detained men of helping U.S.-led airstrikes against Al-Nusra positions.

While ISIS has been the main focus of the coalition bombing campaign, Nusra too has been targeted despite its fierce hostility to its jihadi rival.

In an online statement it published Friday, Al-Nusra called Division 30 "agents of American interests and projects in the region."

The same day, it launched an offensive against Division 30's headquarters.

In a statement on Facebook, the U.S.-trained rebel group said five of its fighters had been killed and 18 wounded in the battle for the base.

Under the cover of U.S.-led airstrikes, the remaining forces withdrew to the Afrin area of Aleppo province, which is held by Kurdish militia.

At least 25 Nusra fighters were killed, the Observatory said.

 

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