Middle East

Syria conflict: Al-Nusra Front 'captures' Yemen troops

Jihadis holding guns, file pic
Image caption Islamist groups like al-Nusra have claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on government targets in Syria

The al-Nusra Front, an Islamist group fighting government forces in Syria, has reportedly posted a video saying it has captured five Yemeni soldiers sent to help quell the uprising.

The video shows five men asking Yemen to stop supporting Bashar al-Assad.

The four-minute video's authenticity has not been verified.

A Yemeni rights group said five Yemeni officers had been studying at a military academy in Aleppo but went missing in August, Reuters reported.

They had reportedly disappeared en route to Damascus from Aleppo on their way home after completing their studies, Reuters quoted the Hood group as saying.

'Cut all ties'

The four-minute video, which was posted on jihadist forums, shows the identity cards of five men, one of whom appears to be a lieutenant colonel, as well as pictures of them in military uniform.

The five are pictured sitting below a black flag emblazoned with "al-Nusra Front" in Arabic.

The video includes an interview with one of the men who says the group were sent to Damascus to help quell the uprising.

The man, who identifies himself as Mohammed Abdo Hezam al-Meleiky, says: "I ask the Yemeni government to cut all logistical and military ties because Bashar al-Assad's regime is a regime that is killing its people and that is what we saw with our own eyes when we came here."

The al-Nusra Front - or The Front for the Defence of the Syrian People - says it comprises jihadis who have returned from other wars to fight in Syria. It has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on pro-government targets.

Activists estimate more than 27,000 people have died in the violence since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began last year.

Yemen's government - which is battling its own Islamic insurgency at home - has refused to criticise Mr Assad's tactics to quell the uprising in Syria.

Last November, it was one of just three Arab League states - along with Syria and Lebanon - to vote against suspending Syria from the bloc over its crackdown.

Aleppo has seen days of fighting as government forces and rebels seek to gain control of Syria's largest city.

Map showing camps for Syrian refugees. Total refugees: 235,368; Lebanon: 59,111; Turkey: 80,410; Jordan: 77,165; Iraq: 18,682. Source: UNHCR and Turkey, September 2012