Nusra Front releases US-trained Syrian rebel fighters

Fighters from Division 30 unit released by Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front after being kidnapped late July

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Seven US-trained opposition fighters from the Division 30 unit in Syria have been released by the Al Qaeda-affiliate Nusra Front militant group two weeks after they were kidnapped.

"Seven Division 30 fighters who were being held by the brothers in Al-Nusra Front have been freed," an official statement from the Division 30 unit said, without elaborating on when they were released.

"We welcome this noble initiative and urge the brothers of Al-Nusra and hope that they will release in the coming hours the group's commander and other fighters," the statement added.

The Division 30 fighters were kidnapped in northern Syria in late July shortly after entering the country from Turkey, where they were being trained by US military personnel to fight against the ISIS militant group.

A total of 13 out of 54 US-trained fighters who were among the first to arrive in Syria after the training, including a leader, were kidnapped by the Nusra Front, while at least five were killed during clashes.

The kidnappings took place when Nusra Front militants stormed a camp in the village of Qah, a village located in the Idlib province near the Turkish border where the Division 30 fighters had taken refuge, London-based Syrıan Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) chief Rami Abdel Rahman said at the time.

Nusra Front claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, releasing a video showing members of the US-trained forces.

Despite Nusra's fierce hostility towards their rivals, ISIS militants, the Division 30 unit soon became one of the main targets of the Al-Qaeda affiliated fighting faction in Syria.

The Nusra Front, which the US has labeled as a “terrorist” group, has a track record of crushing US-backed fighters in Syria, according to Reuters.

One of the opposition factions closely allied with the Free Syrian Army, the Syria Revolutionaries Front led by Jamal Maarouf - who was known to be one of the most powerful leaders from the armed opposition fighting against the regime of Bashar alAssad - was defeated by Nusra Front last year.

The US-backed Hazzm Movement also collapsed earlier this year after losing its battle against the Nusra Front in the northwest region of Syria.

The US military launched the train-and-equip programme in May, which aimed at training up to 5,400 fighters a year to combat ISIS, but with many candidates deemed ineligible and others dropping out, the US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter stated that it has fallen far behind plans.

TRTWorld and agencies