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Al-Nusra Front captures leader of U.S.-backed Syrian rebel group

By
Andrew V. Pestano
The U.S. military announced earlier this month that it was vetting some 7,000 people for military training in Syria. The military hopes to train 3,000 to 5,000 Syrian fighters each year. File Photo by UPI/Ahmad Deeb
The U.S. military announced earlier this month that it was vetting some 7,000 people for military training in Syria. The military hopes to train 3,000 to 5,000 Syrian fighters each year. File Photo by UPI/Ahmad Deeb | License Photo

ALEPPO, Syria, July 30 (UPI) -- The al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate, has captured the leader and several members of Division 30, a U.S.-backed rebel group in Syria.

The al-Nusra Front is accused of abducting Nadim al-Hassan and several of his companions on Tuesday in Azaz, a rural area north of Aleppo. Division 30 has urged al-Nusra to release them.

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The majority of Syrian rebel fighters who have completed training by the United States are from the Division 30 group.

The U.S. has been training moderate rebels who are fighting a two-front war against the Islamic State and the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that the U.S. military has trained "an awfully small number" of 60 Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State militants.

"I said the number 60, and I can look out at your faces and you have the same reaction I do, which is that that's an awfully small number," he said.

Part of the reason there is such a small number of Syrian rebel fighters being trained is because they must first be vetted to make sure they do not support Syria's Assad regime.

"We make sure that they, for example, aren't going to pose a green-on-blue threat to their trainers; that they don't have any history of atrocities," Carter said.

The military announced it was vetting some 7,000 potential volunteers, and they hope to train 3,000 to 5,000 Syrian fighters each year.

Danielle Haynes contributed to this report.

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