They’re supposed to be moderates. The U.S. supports them. But in this video, the fighters identified as Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels are taunting what appear to be U.S. special forces. Their pickup trucks are armed with heavy machine guns and automatic grenade launchers mounted on the flatbeds.
Speaking in Arabic, the narrator says the convoy is leaving the northern Syrian town of al-Rai near the Turkish border. According to various translations of the voice on the video, the rebels refer to the Americans as “infidels” and “crusaders.” According to a Tweet posted by BBC producer, Riam Dilati, the rebels also threatened the Americans: “We’re going to slaughter u. Ur coming to invade #Syria,” Dilati wrote.
Here’s the video:
— Riam Dalati (@Dalatrm) September 16, 2016
A Turkish Army assault with U.S. air support re-captured Al-Rai from ISIL control several weeks ago.
According to Reuters, the running commentary on what appears to be a different video also identifies the troops in unmarked uniforms as Americans. Some are wearing the tactical helmets favored by U.S. Special Forces. The voice on the video says Americans are leaving al-Rai. Reuters reports the unidentified narrator says:
“Here are the Americans leaving al-Rai village. God is great. We do not accept Americans. Here are some of the brigades with them. We do not accept any Americans to collaborate with us. We are Muslims and not infidels. Go, get out, Americans.”
Are the jeering rebels Free Syrian Army fighters? Are the departing troops American? Are the alleged Americans fleeing al-Rai? Or is this an orderly, scheduled departure? It’s unclear from the amateur video. The men on the pickup trucks don’t appear to be in a rush, or frightened.
In a statement to Reuters, Joseph Dempsey, a Research Analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, wouldn’t identify the men on the trucks as Americans. Dempsey said the weapons and equipment on the pickup trucks appeared to be “professional foreign special forces rather than a local Syrian opposition group.”
Other analysts identified the two tanks seen in one of the videos as Turkish Army M60Ts.
If true, Dempsey said it, “correlates with new reports of U.S. special forces operating alongside Turkish forces in the north of the country.”
Story compiled with sources from Reuters, CNN, and The Telegraph