Al-Nusra Front abducts US-backed rebel leader in Syria
US-backed rebels have accused al-Qaeda-linked fighters of raiding their headquarters in northwestern Syria and kidnapping their commander and dozens of other combatants.
Jaish al-Tahrir said in a statement on Sunday that its commander, Mohammad al-Ghabi, was abducted from his father's home in the town of Kafranbel by al-Nusra Front militants on Saturday evening.
"We were taken by surprise yesterday during the evening prayers when a group of armed al-Nusra Front militants unwarrantedly raided [Ghabi's] father's home. They opened fire and abducted Ghabi and his two brothers ," the statement read.
It added that the militants "kidnapped more than 40 members of Jaish al-Tahrir" and stole weapons from other bases and checkpoints set up in northwestern Syria.
"We call on al-Nusra to immediately release our commander and all the others who were kidnapped," the statement said, urging other Islamist rebel factions to put pressure on the militants.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has confirmed the incident and said the US had supported Jaish al-Tahrir with weapons and even salaries in the past.
|Locals have demonstrated against al-Nusra's jihadist ideology [Getty]|
Al-Nusra has attacked several US-backed groups in northwestern Idlib province – most recently raiding the warehouses of Division 13 in the town of Maarat al-Numan in March.
In the summer of 2015, it kidnapped several members of US-trained rebel group Division 30.
Idlib province is controlled by the Jaish al-Fath, an alliance of Islamist and rebel fighters led by al-Nusra and hardline group Ahrar al-Sham.
Residents of towns like Maarat al-Numan and Kafranbel have demonstrated against al-Nusra's extremist ideology.
Syria's five-year conflict began with anti-government demonstrations before turning into a complex war increasingly dominated by extremist groups.
More than 280,000 people have been killed and millions have been forced to flee their homes since March 2011.