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9 From 'New Syrian Force' Fighting IS in Syria, US Says


FILE - Members of the Islamist rebel group al-Nusra Front prepare a homemade mortar in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, June 5, 2014.

FILE - Members of the Islamist rebel group al-Nusra Front prepare a homemade mortar in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, June 5, 2014.

The U.S. military says there are now nine active fighters for the New Syrian Force, the Syrian rebel paramilitary group sanctioned by the United States, battling Islamic State militants in Syria.

Colonel Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military forces in the Middle East, told reporters Friday that another 11 of the original 54-member NSF unit have not yet returned to Syria since being attacked about two months ago.

Officials have said members of al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida-linked terrorist group, fired on the first NSF unit of 54 in July shortly after it re-entered Syria following coalition-led training. The group was largely disbanded, according to Ryder, with one NSF fighter reported killed in the attack and another captured by al-Nusra.

Ryder said Friday that 14 of the original NSF members were fighting alongside their coalition-supported "parent opposition unit," but were no longer in the NSF training and equipping program. When asked why those 14 would quit the program, Ryder told VOA he did not have any information on their motive for leaving.

Another 18 members of the original unit are unaccounted for. Ryder said they were "in Syria, but their whereabouts are unknown."

The equipment of these unaccounted-for members is in the hands of a moderate opposition group that is coordinating with the United States, according to Ryder.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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