Friday, 25 May 2018 12:15 GMT

First US-trained Syrian rebel killed

(MENAFN - The Peninsula) A member of a new Syrian force trained by the US military was believed to have been killed in clashes last week with Al Qaeda's Syria wing, in what would be the fledgling force's first battlefield casualty, US officials told Reuters yesterday.

The US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the incident, said the Syrian rebel was killed during fighting on Friday with suspected members of

Nusra Front.

The Pentagon declined to comment, citing "operational security reasons."

Friday's incident triggered the first US air strikes to support the Syrian force. At the time, the US military said the fighters repelled the attack, without citing casualties among the US-trained force.

The US military launched its programme in May to train up to 5,400 fighters a year in what was seen as a test of Obama's strategy of getting local partners to combat extremists and keep US troops off the front lines.

The training programme has been challenged from the start, with many candidates being declared ineligible and some even dropping out.

Obama's requirement that they target militants from Islamic State has sidelined huge segments of the Syrian opposition focused instead on battling Syrian government forces.

Only around 60 have been deployed to the battlefield so far.

The past week has illustrated that, in Syria's messy civil war, Islamic State is only one of the threats to the US recruits.

The suspected militants from Nusra Front attacked US-trained fighters on Friday at a compound in Syria, which was also being used by members of a Western-aligned insurgent group, known as Division 30, officials said.

The US officials who disclosed the death of the US-trained Syrian fighter said Division 30 also suffered casualties.

Defending the US-trained fighters could become a growing job for United States, which has been waging daily air strikes at Islamic State targets in Syria. US officials disclosed to Reuters on Sunday that the United States has decided to allow air strikes to help repel any attack against the US-trained Syrian rebels, even if the enemies come from forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. US officials have long played down the idea that Assad's forces - which have not fired on US-led coalition aircraft bombing Islamic State targets in Syria - would turn their sights on the US-backed Syrian rebels.

First US-trained Syrian rebel killed

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