Al-Qaida releases 7 US-backed rebels in northern Syria
BEIRUT - The Associated Press
AFP photoAl-Qaida's affiliate in Syria has released seven members of a U.S.-backed rebel faction that it abducted late last month, the rebel group said in a statement.
The Division 30 rebel group said in a statement late Aug. 15 that it hopes the Nusra Front will release the group's commander who has been held since July 30. Days after the abduction, the Nusra Front attacked the Division 30 command in northern Syria, leading to the near-collapse of the group that has dozens of fighters.
The kidnapping and attack on Division 30, came a few days after the U.S. and Turkey announced the outlines of a deal to help rebels push Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) back from a strip of territory it controls along the Syrian-Turkish border, replacing it with more moderate rebels backed by Washington and Ankara.
The Nusra Front said at the time it abducted the rebels because they were trained by the U.S.
The Division 30 statement described Nusra Front fighters as "brothers" and thanked them for the release, saying, "We value this noble step."
It said Division 30 is on the "same page with all holy warriors in Syria."
On Aug. 16, Syrian government warplanes struck a market in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma, killing and wounding dozens, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees said.
The LCC and Observatory said rescue operations are ongoing in the area. Neither group gave a death toll.