Al Qaeda in Syria says detains U.S.-trained rebels

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 31, 2015 12:48 PM

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's Syria wing said on Friday it had detained members of a Syrian rebel group who had just completed U.S. training, describing them as agents of America and warning others against taking part in "the American project".

Syrian opposition sources and a monitoring group said earlier this week that Nusra Front had detained the leader of the rebel "Division 30" and a number of its members.

The Pentagon has cast doubt on this, saying no members of the "New Syrian Force" had been captured or detained. But Nusra Front said the men it was holding were U.S.-trained and had entered Syria several days earlier.

"We warn soldiers of (Division 30) against proceeding in the American project," Nusra Front said in a statement distributed online.

"We, and the Sunni people in Syria, will not allow their sacrifices to be offered on a golden platter to the American side."

The incident shows the difficulties the United States faces in its efforts to train and equip rebels to fight the hardline Islamic State group in Syria, which is also a rival of Nusra Front.

Nusra Front said Division 30 had coordinated airstrikes with the U.S.-led alliance against Nusra Front positions, a reference to fighting between the sides on Friday.

The strikes "left a number of martyrs and wounded in our ranks", the statement said.

It said the captured rebels had entered Syria several days prior, just after completing their training, "so the Nusra Front had to investigate."

(Reporting by Tom Perry and Omar Fahmy, writing by Sylvia Westall, editing by Ralph Boulton)