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US-led coalition drops ammo to anti-IS Syrian rebels

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Washington: US-led coalition forces have parachuted ammunition to rebels fighting Islamic State jihadists in northern Syria, a US military spokesman said today.

The move follows the Pentagon’s announcement last week that it would pause a program to train moderate rebels, and instead focus efforts on equipping screened rebel leaders from groups fighting IS.

“Coalition forces conducted an airdrop Sunday in northern Syria to resupply local counter-ISIL ground forces as they conduct operations against ISIL,” US Central Command spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said in a statement, using an alternative acronym for IS.

“The aircraft delivery included small arms ammunition to resupply counter-ISIL ground forces so that they can continue operations against ISIL.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a US official told AFP the drop included 50 tons of ammunition.

Ryder said the ammunition was for Syrian Arab groups whose leaders were “appropriately vetted by the United States and have been fighting to remove ISIL from northern Syria.”

The United States is leading a coalition of some 60 nations that has carried out more than 7,000 drone and plane strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria since the beginning of operations more than a year ago.

The Pentagon was forced to scrap plans to train thousands of Syrian rebels in Turkey and Jordan after many failed to pass the screening process and one group of graduates gave some of their ammo and other gear to an Al-Qaeda affiliate.

Russia on September 30 began its own bombing campaign in Syria. Moscow claims it, too, is targeting IS and “terrorists” but the Pentagon says the vast majority of strikes have been against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.