- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

U.S.-trained rebels in Syria have reportedly handed over their weapons to al Qaeda affiliates in Syria immediately after re-entering the country.

Fighters with the controversial Division 30, the first group of U.S.-backed moderate rebels tasked with combating Islamic State militants on the ground, allegedly surrendered to the al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, sources claimed Monday night.

In a statement on Twitter, a man calling himself Abu Fahd al-Tunisi, a member of the al Qaeda-linked group, said “A strong slap for America… the new group from Division 30 that entered yesterday hands over all of its weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra after being granted safe passage,” the Telegraph reported.

“They handed over a very large amount of ammunition and medium weaponry and a number of pickups,” he added.

Another member of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Khattab al-Maqdisi, tweeted Division 30’s commander, Anas Ibrahim Obaid, told the terrorist group’s leaders he had tricked the coalition to get the weapons.

“He promised to issue a statement… repudiating Division 30, the coalition, and those who trained him,” he tweeted, according to the Telegraph. “And he also gave a large amount of weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 75 Division 30 fighters had crossed into Syria from Turkey the day before the Tweets with “12 four-wheel vehicles equipped with machine guns and ammunition.”

U.S. Central Command confirmed about 70 graduates of the Syria “train and equip” program had re-entered Syria and were operating as New Syrian Forces alongside Syrian Kurds, Sunni Arab and other forces combating Islamic State militants, the Telegraph reported.

If the reports are true, this will be the second disaster at the hands of Jahbat al-Nusra to befall the much-criticized $500 million training program.

Last month the first group of fighters to re-enter Syria was attacked and routed by the organization, which stormed its headquarters and kidnapped and murdered some of the other members.

Last week, General Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. Central Command, told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee there were as few as four or five program graduates still fighting inside Syria.

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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