by Staff Writers
Beirut (AFP) Sept 23, 2014
A Syrian rebel group that has reportedly received weapons from the United States criticised air strikes Tuesday by a US-led coalition against jihadists in the war-torn country.
The Hazm Movement, in a statement posted on their Twitter account, said the strikes would undermine the armed opposition and benefit President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
They described the strikes as "an attack on national sovereignty that undermines the Syrian revolution".
"The sole beneficiary of this foreign interference in Syria is the Assad regime, especially in the absence of any real strategy to topple him," the group said.
The statement came after a US-led coalition assembled to fight jihadists carried out air strikes and attacks against positions in Syria of the Islamic State group (IS) and Al-Qaeda.
They were the first attacks by the coalition on Syrian territory, and hit positions in northern and eastern Syria, killing at least 120 militants, and eight civilians, according to a monitor.
The Hazm Movement is among a small number of rebel groups reported to have received US weapons earlier this year, and was among those cited by US Secretary of State John Kerry last week as likely to receive US arms and training in coming months.
In April, rebel officials told AFP the group had received 20 TOW anti-tank missiles from a "Western source".
And last week, Kerry described it as one of several groups that could receive US weapons and training under a new plan to arm rebels to fight against the IS jihadists.
Syria's opposition National Coalition, a key political grouping, welcomed the US-led strikes on Tuesday, but also urged the international community to keep up pressure on Assad.
More than 180,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the conflict in March 2001.
US may have gone after Khorasan group even without IS attacks
Senior officials said Tuesday that the group, which Washington says is made up of seasoned Al-Qaeda operatives, had long been in the US crosshairs.
"We will take action against terrorists that pose a threat to the United States and the Khorasan group fits into that category," said a senior US official.
Another senior official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the military action in Syria against IS had provided an opportunity for Washington also to target Khorasan.
"This is something that has very much been on our radar for several months and it was an action that we were very much contemplating, separate and apart from the growing threat from ISIL," the official said.
Earlier a senior US military officer said that US military strikes targeted Khorasan because it was on the verge of executing "major attacks" against the West.
"Intelligence reports indicated that the group was in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks against western targets and potentially the US homeland," Lieutenant General William Mayville, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.
The strikes against the Khorasan group early Tuesday were separate from a wave of bombing raids led by the United States and backed by several Arab countries that targeted the Islamic State group.
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