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Theft of U.S. non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels suspends shipments

ANKARA, Turkey, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. officials say they have stopped deliveries of non-lethal aid to rebels in Syria after Islamist militants there reportedly seized U.S.-provided equipment.

Washington had agreed to supply forces opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad with the provision the aid go only to moderate elements within the rebel forces, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

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T.J. Grubisha, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, confirmed the non-lethal aid had been suspended, the Times said. He said shipments of humanitarian aid into northern Syria by international relief organizations had not been affected.

The United States has so far provided more than $115 million in non-lethal aid such as hand-held two-way radios, medical kits, laptops and satellite communications gear to the Syrian opposition.

Grubisha said U.S. authorities were working with Gen. Salim Idriss, the head of the Free Syrian Army, to "inventory the status of equipment and supplies."

A spokesman for the Islamic Front, an alliance of six rebel groups, said his group had received a call for help Friday from Idriss' office, but the supplies "had been completely emptied by an unknown group" by the time members of the Islamic Front arrived.

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