The U.S.-backed unit of moderate Syrian rebels effectively disintegrated, following several kidnappings by the al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front. The group has agreed to release seven of its prisoners, in an announcement in which the freed refer to the al-Qaeda thugs as brothers.
“Seven Division 30 fighters who were being held by the brothers in Al-Nusra Front have been freed,” said a statement from the unit, as reported by AFP. “We welcome this noble initiative and urge the brothers of Al-Nusra and hope that they will release in the coming hours the group’s commander and other fighters.”
In fact, according to the UK Telegraph, it looks like Division 30 either made a deal with al-Qaeda, or has actually sworn allegiance to it, as the statement includes a declaration that the American-sponsored unit is “on the same page with all holy warriors in Syria.”
“We value this noble step,” Division 30 said to al-Nusra after the prisoner release was announced, according to the Times of Israel.
The Telegraph relates comments from a Division 30 spokesman that the father of one of the captive fighters brokered a deal for their release with the Nusra Front.
Evidently the Obama Administration expected no trouble from al-Qaeda, because Division 30 was supposed to fight their rivals in ISIS, and was caught by surprise when the Nusra Front swiftly attacked and overwhelmed the tiny Western-sponsored unit. Nusra has said it attacked so quickly because it wanted to neutralize the American proxy force before it gained a foothold in Syria, a tactic the New York Times recalled they have employed before, when the CIA was covertly attempting to set up U.S.-friendly rebel units in Syria. It’s hard to imagine any deal securing the release of Division 30 captives that wouldn’t include assurances to Nusra that the “moderate” Syrian rebel group would become more compatible with al-Qaeda’s interests.
The release comes after al-Nusra released a video accusing their captives of being American puppets, and parading a few of them around for the cameras. It is not yet known if the released hostages include the unit’s commander, Col. Nadim al-Hassan, who was captured just days after crossing the Turkish border to begin operations in Syria.