Al Qaeda kidnaps moderate Syrian rebels trained by US



BEIRUT // Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Al Nusra Front has kidnapped eight rebels who participated in a US training programme to fight ISIL, a monitor said on Thursday.

“Yesterday evening, forces from Al Nusra Front kidnapped the commander of Division 30, Colonel Nadim Hassan, along with seven members of the Division, including commander Farhan Al Jassem,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based monitor said the group “was returning from a meeting in the city of Azaz in northern Aleppo province to their headquarters in the nearby village of Malikiyeh.”

The Azaz meeting “was specifically to coordinate with other rebel groups on the ground to begin a military operation against the Islamic State group in northeastern Aleppo province,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

He also confirmed that the eight fighters were part of a group of 54 rebels that entered Syria from Turkey around two weeks ago after receiving training there.

The kidnap was also reported in a statement purportedly issued by Division 30 and circulated on social media.

“The leadership of Division 30 condemns the kidnap of Colonel Nadim Hassan, commander of Division 30, and his comrades, by members of Al Nusra Front in northern Aleppo province,” the statement said.

It called on “the brothers of Al Nusra Front to free (the kidnapped) as quickly as possible to preserve Muslim blood and avoid weakening the fronts with side disputes between brothers.”

The kidnap is a potential blow for the US-led train-and-equip programme, which the Pentagon acknowledged early this month had only managed to identify and train some 60 fighters.

The $500-million programme run out of Turkey is intended to build a force that will fight ISIL on the ground.

But it has been fraught with problems, with few candidates approved for participation and, reportedly, a high attrition rate.

In January, the Pentagon said about 5,400 Syrian rebels would be trained and armed in the first year of the programme.

But on July 8, defence secretary Ashton Carter acknowledged it had fallen far short.

“This number is much smaller than we had hoped for at this point,” he said.

* Agence France-Presse

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UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
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The strait is 33 km wide at its narrowest point, but the shipping lane is just three km wide in either direction. Almost a fifth of oil consumed across the world passes through the strait.

Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the strait, a move that would risk inviting geopolitical and economic turmoil.

Last month, Iran issued a new warning that it would block the strait, if it was prevented from using the waterway following a US decision to end exemptions from sanctions for major Iranian oil importers.

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The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

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The cost of Covid testing around the world

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Venue: Kuala Lumpur

Result: Winners play at Asia Cup in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in September

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Wed Aug 29: Malaysia v Hong Kong, Nepal v Oman, UAE v Singapore

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Venue: Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Schedule: Sep 15-28

Teams: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, plus the winner of the Qualifier

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A homegrown card payment scheme launched by the National Payments Corporation of India and backed by the Reserve Bank of India, the country’s central bank

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