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Militants from al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadist group Jabhat al Nusra have posted pictures online showing off weapons allegedly surrendered to them by moderate Syrian rebels from the US-trained Division 30.
This follows an incident last week in which Division 30 fighters surrendered a stockpile of equipment, including heavy machine guns, to Al Nusra fighters to secure safe passage.
The announcement as the latest setback for the US's $300m (£198m) Turkey-based training programme. On 30 September, the US announced that it would stop enrolling Syrian fighters in it.
Say hello to my little friend. A friend of mine with a brand new US machine gun delivered by US-trained Div30 members pic.twitter.com/77d6B9ERXV
— Abu Saeed Al-Halabi (@Saeed_AlHalabi6) September 29, 2015
I think we can say now that the rebel group with the most (new) US weapons in Syria is Nusra/AQ. pic.twitter.com/XfqgG9UeIE
— Abu Saeed Al-Halabi (@Saeed_AlHalabi6) September 23, 2015
A picture uploaded by Dutch al Nusra militant Abu Saeed al-Halabi shows a masked man holding what appears to be a US-made M240 machine gun allegedly surrendered to the group by fighters. The model has been used by the US infantry since the late 1970s.
"Say hello to my little friend. A friend of mine with a brand new US machine gun delivered by US-trained Div30 members," reads the message posted with the picture.
US Centcom confirmed that six vehicles and ammunition had been surrendered to al Nusra. Al Nusra said that the group had handed over ammunition, medium weaponry, and pick-up trucks, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group confirmed the group had enetered the country with equipment including "12 four-wheel vehicles equipped with machine guns and ammunition".
Jeff Weyers, who monitors terrorist use of social media at iBrabo, said that the picture appeared to be authentic and that al-Halabi was at the centre of Al Nusra propaganda operations.
"Halabi demonstrated that he knows information on the working of Al Nusra that is proven to be reliable. When he claimed that the weapons had been seized it was verified after initial Centcom [US Central Command] denials," said Weyers.
Al Halabi, he said, was behind a Facebook campaign that successfully recruited more than a thousand Dutch and Belgian extremists to Al Nusra.
Only days after they were first deployed to Syria in July, US-trained rebels were attacked by Al Nusra, and several of the group's leaders kidnapped.
"As we review the program, we have paused the actual movement of new recruits from Syria," said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook, announcing the intake of new recruits was being frozen. "We also continue to provide support for current forces on the ground and to train the cohorts currently in the program."