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US stops non-lethal aid to Syria rebels

Washington, Dec. 11: The US has suspended the delivery of non-lethal aid to the Syrian Opposition in northern Syria after concluding that some of it has fallen into the hands of extremist Islamic fighters, American officials said today.

The decision was made after moderate Syrian rebel forces reporting to Gen. Salim Idris, the nominal head of the rebel Free Syrian Army, came under attack last week from fighters aligned with al Qaida, according to an account provided by an American official.

The Islamic Front, an alliance of rebel fighters that has broken with Gen. Idris’s moderate Opposition but opposes the Qaida affiliate in Syria, joined the fray, the American official said.

After the dust cleared, the Islamic Front appeared to have taken control of warehouses in Atmeh that contain equipment and supplies provided by the US, added the American official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal reports.

The first reports of military actions are often confused and inexact. But it seems clear that American officials are concerned that some aid has indeed fallen into the wrong hands. “We have seen reports that Islamic Front forces have seized the Atmeh headquarters and warehouses,” an official said.

The episode illustrates two trends that pose major challenges for the Obama administration’s goal of strengthening the moderate Syrian Opposition and persuading President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to yield power.

One is the growing strength of Qaida-affiliated forces, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The other is the fracturing of the Assad opposition.

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