Syrian rebel sources said Turkish intelligence alerted an al Qaeda branch known as Nusra Front to the presence of United States-trained moderate Syrians, which led to their kidnapping as they entered the country to the fight the Islamic State group (ISIS) last month, reported McClatchy Monday. The news outlet cited a number of sources that said that while the U.S.-trained Syrians were charged with fighting ISIS, Turkish officials were concerned the group would also attack Islamist groups such as Nusra, which Turkey holds ties with.
The tipoff, rebels told McClatchy, allowed Nusra to kidnap a number of the 54 graduates on July 29 from the train-and-equip program. Sources told the news outlet that only Turkey and the U.S. knew about the planned entry into Syria. "We have sources who tell us the Turks warned Nusra that they would be targeted by this group,” said one anonymous officer of Division 30, the rebel group with whom the graduates were set to work. The officer did not want to be identified for his safety, saying Nusra still holds 22 people from Division 30 in a Syrian town near the Turkish border.
— John Beck (@JM_Beck) August 24, 2015
Nusra rose to power in Syria in 2012 and is listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. government. The July kidnapping came just days after Turkey and the U.S. announced a plan to push back ISIS from a strip of land it held along the Syria-Turkey border with the help of moderate rebels backed by the two countries, reported the Associated Press. The kidnapping reportedly took place as the men returned from a meeting north of Aleppo, Syria, to coordinate with other factions.
Division 30 spokesman Capt. Ammar al Wawi was measured in his comments to McClatchy about Turkey's involvement in the kidnapping. “I have to live here in Turkey and have been targeted for kidnapping or assassination twice in the last month,” he said to the news service. “But we know someone aligned with Nusra informed them of our presence. They were taken within 10 minutes.”