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MISSILES used in an Isis attack in which two British soldiers were seriously injured in Syria yesterday may have been sold to the jihadists after being supplied by the United States to opposition groups.
The pair were hit in a missile attack launched on a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) base in Deir Ezzor, northern Syria. A fighter from the largely Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) was killed in the blast.
The role of British soldiers in Syria remains a secret, with the Ministry of Defence refusing to comment on the operations of special forces. It is believed that they are fighting alongside the SDF.
It appears that the missile used to attack the SDF compound may have found its way into the hands of Isis thanks to a covert US programme that saw weapons supplied to opposition groups in Syria.
Former British ambassador to Syria Peter Ford alleged that the only weapon of this type that the jihadist terror group has in its arsenal are those that were supplied by the US to so-called moderate rebels in 2015.
Mr Ford claimed that the weapons were sold by the groups to Isis soon afterwards. Other similar weapons may have been captured by the death cult after defeating moderates in battle while some are believed to have defected to Isis bringing their weapons cache with them.
The supply of weapons to Syrian forces on the ground was part of a covert CIA operation started by former US President Barack Obama in 2013 after it was proposed by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former CIA head David Petraeus.
Its aim was to turn the tide against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and foment regime change in the region, where the use of ground troops would have been unpopular following the US invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan which saw thousands of US soldiers die.
However, the supply chain was complicated with the arms bought by the US and Saudi Arabia from Eastern European EU member-state manufacturers through private companies that hold government contracts.
They were then secretly sent to opposition groups in Syria, although according to a report by the Conflict Armament Research organisation, which tracks arms shipments, the arms may have been supplied in breach of contracts stipulating the weapons should not be transferred after purchase.
The 2017 EU and German-funded study found that the anti-tank weapons sent to the rebels had found their way to Isis less than two months after leaving the warehouse.
The programme included the shipment of arms to the rebels through Turkey and Jordan with supplies being sent to the jihadist-backed Free Syrian Army which was fighting government forces in a bid to bring down the government.
However Turkey has itself been accused of support for jihadist groups in Syria as part of its war on the country’s Kurdish population. In 2016 the then liberal Cumhuriyet newspaper published footage which allegedly showed Turkish intelligence services sending trucks loaded with weapons bound for Syrian Islamists.
Operation Olive Branch was launched in January 2017 as Turkish forces allied with jihadist groups to invade and occupy the largely Kurdish city of Afrin. More recently President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened an “imminent” ground invasion of Manbij after the US announced it was withdrawing troops, claiming 15,000 FSA fighters would support the Turkish operation.
Video footage circulating on social media on Sunday alleged to show the Turkish army allowing a convoy of 250 Tahrir al-Sham (al Qaida) fighters crossing the border into Atarib town in Aleppo.
Turkey has previously dismissed claims that it facilitated jihadists crossing into Syria as “black propaganda.” However reports from the border town of Akcakale suggested that in 2014 Isis fighters were crossing into Tal Abyad in Raqqa province, often after using Turkish hospitals to patch up war wounds.
US President Donald Trump announced that the clandestine plan was being scrapped in July 2017 after it became apparent that efforts to overthrow Mr Assad’s government had failed.
Mr Ford said: “The only ‘smart missiles’ in the hands of Isis are the US TOW anti-tank missiles which in 2015 the US supplied moderate rebels, who promptly sold them to Isis.
“The lethality of these weapons had Assad on the ropes, forcing Russia to intervene. And now we see the results. What geniuses these American strategists are...
“Don’t wait for the mainstream media to point up the awkward facts that our commandos are being killed with US weapons carrying out missions for the US-led coalition with no legal authority and when Syrian forces are just a few miles away being prevented by the US and the UK from going in hot pursuit of Isis.”
Stop the War convenor Lindsey German said that forces seeking regime change, including Britain, had been intervening in Syria for years “supplying arms to rebels, bombing and using special forces for covert operations.”
“Most people in Britain are unaware of all this, and are loathe to support such interventions, which have helped fuel the bloody war in Syria. All British troops should be withdrawn now.”
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