Nusra Front abducts leader of US backed Syrian group

Nusra Front abducts leader of US backed Syrian group
Nusra Front has abducted Nadim al-Hassan, leader of Division 30, a US backed Syrian rebel group, north of of Aleppo, a monitoring group has said.
2 min read
30 July, 2015
The Nusra Fron has a track record of crushing US-backed rebels in Syria. [Getty]

The al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front has abducted the leader of an American backed rebel group in north Syria, opposition sources and a monitoring group said, in a blow to Washington's efforts to train and equip fighters to combat Islamic State group. 

A statement issued in the name of the group, "Division 30", accused the Nusra Front of abducting Nadim al-Hassan and a number of his companions in a rural area north of Aleppo. It urged Nusra to release them.

A Syrian activist and a second opposition source said most of the 54 fighters who have so far completed a US-led train and equip programme in Turkey were from Division 30. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that reports on the war, said the men were abducted while returning from a meeting in Azaz, north of Aleppo, to coordinate efforts with other factions. The opposition source said they were abducted on Tuesday night. 

The train and equip programme aims to bolster Syrian rebels deemed politically moderate enough by the United States to fight the Islamic State group that has seized wide areas of Syria. 

The Nusra Front, which Washington has designated a terrorist organization, has a track record of crushing US-backed rebels in Syria. Last year, it routed the Syria Revolutionaries Front led by Jamal Maarouf, viewed as one of the most powerful rebel leaders until his defeat. 

It was also instrumental in the demise of the US-backed Hazzm Movement, which collapsed earlier this year after clashing with the Nusra Front in the northwest.

The US military launched the programme in May to train up to 5,400 fighters a year in what was seen as a test of President Barack Obama's strategy of getting local partners to combat Islamic State. 

But many candidates were declared ineligible and others dropped out. US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said it has fallen far behind plans. 

Washington and Ankara this week announced their intention to provide air cover for Syrian rebels and jointly sweep Islamic State fighters from a strip of land along the border, with US  warplanes using bases in Turkey for strikes. 

But the United States and Turkey have not yet agreed which Syrian rebels they will support in the effort.