People shop during the holy month of Ramadan in the rebel-held Idlib city, Syria June 8, 2017. Picture taken June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
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The United States warned a takeover of rebel-held northwestern Idlib province by Syrian militants linked to a former al-Qaeda affiliate would have grave consequences and make it difficult to dissuade Russia from renewing bombing that recently stopped.In an online letter posted late on Wednesday, the top State Department official in charge of Syria policy, Michael Ratney, said the recent offensive by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, spearheaded by former al-Qaeda offshoot Nusra Front (which now calls itself Jabhat Fatah al-Sham) had cemented its grip on the province and put "the future of northern Syria in big danger". Ratney told rebel groups, who have been forced to work with the jihadists out of expediency or for self preservation, to steer away from the group before it was "too late".He said Washington would consider any organisation in Idlib province that was a front for the militants a part of al-Qaeda's network.
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