US suspends non-lethal aid to rebels in northern Syria

Photo: US suspends non-lethal aid to rebels in northern Syria / Arabic region

The United States has suspended non-lethal aid to rebels in northern Syria after a rival opposition group seized a warehouse from the lead rebel group, dpa reported.

The warehouse seizure Friday by a new coalition calling itself the Islamic Front appeared to underline growing signs of disarray and rivalry among the rebels trying to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that aid was suspended over concern that "Islamic Front forces have seized the headquarters" and warehouses of the Supreme Military Council (SMC).

He said other US aid would continue flowing into the region through international groups supporting the SMC. The United States dedicates most of its efforts to supporting moderate forces in Syria, Earnest said.

The warehouse in northern Syria could have contained US aid such as meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) and laptops, but US officials were conducting an inventory to see what might be missing, said Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the State Department.

"We're working closely with General (Salim) Idris and the SMC staff ... to inventory the status of US equipment and supplies provided to the SMC," Psaki said.

Idris is chief of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army. The SMC has been designated by the international community as the coordinating group for military and other assistance.

The Islamic Front comprises six key Islamist rebel groups that joined ranks in late November, emphasizing that they distanced themselves from the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

That move was seen as undermining the Free Syrian Army, which has been suffering from defections by rebels who have joined Islamist factions that have more resources.

Psaki said it was "certainly" of concern that the SMC warehouses had been "seized by another organization."

"What that means and what it will mean longer term is something that we're evaluating," she said.

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Tags: Syria, conflict, USA