Al-Nusra Front claims capture of U.S.-backed rebels

Al-Nusra accused Washington of recruiting ‘moderate’ rebels to undergo a training and rehabilitation program run by the CIA

Published: Updated:

Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, Al-Nusra Front, said Friday it had captured “moderate” rebel fighters who had received training from the United States.

Al-Nusra accused Washington of recruiting “forces from what it calls ‘the moderate opposition’... to undergo a training and rehabilitation program run by the Central Intelligence Agency.

“A few days ago, one of these groups called Division 30 entered Syria... so Al-Nusra arrested several soldiers of this division,” the group said in an online statement.

It did not specify how many rebels had been captured, or where or when the incident took place.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group had reported that Al-Nusra kidnapped eight rebels from Division 30 in a village in the northern province of Aleppo late Wednesday.

On Thursday, a U.S. defense department spokeswoman denied the report.

In its statement, Al-Nusra accused Division 30 of being “agents of American interests and projects in the area, to fight the ‘terrorist organizations,’ as they (the US and its rebel allies) described it.”

The jihadist group said Division 30 had coordinated with aircraft from the U.S.-led coalition attacking jihadists in Syria to strike Al-Nusra positions.

“We warn the soldiers of this division not to proceed with the American plan... Their return to the truth and the right way will be more beneficial,” the statement said.

Syria’s conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests, but has devolved into a multi-front civil war among rebels, regime forces, Kurdish fighters and jihadist groups.