Kirill Vysokolov — Members of the al-Nusra Front shut down a radio station affiliated with the Free Syrian Army and kidnapped its two iconic spokesmen in the Syrian town of Kafr Nabl, according to social media accounts affiliated with the rebels.
The FSA and al-Nusra Front share control of large swaths of Syria's Idlib province. The Al-Nusra Front, internationally recognized as a terrorist organization affiliate with al-Qaeda, is not allowed to take part in upcoming peace talks, meaning that it would have to cede control of the areas for a ceasefire to take effect.
Station spokesman Hadi al-Abdallah was later released, according to some reports, while his partner Raed Fares was kept kidnapped in an unknown location. Fares was apparently pressured by al-Nusra in the past.
"Abdallah had used his Al-Nusra connections to keep his freedom but this time the jihadists detained them both and destroyed and confiscated their belongings at the station," the head of an FSA umbrella group Soner Taleb told AFP.
"Nusra placed the [FSA] flag on the floor and made me walk on it. After five years, they made me put my shoes on the flag with which I cover our martyrs," one of the arrested station employees reportedly said.
The "Radio Fresh" radio station and its two spokesmen previously reported on al-Nusra Front activities in a positive light and interviewed its leaders. The town of Kafr Nabl itself is known for weekly photo ops, in which participants are photographed with English-language signs asking the US to bomb Syria, while Arabic-language signs spout sectarian rhetoric.
Although ostensibly secular, only adult men and male children are seen in the photos of the protests, which suggests compliance with Sharia law, in which women are not allowed to be seen unveiled in public.
US involvement in training and arming rebels has already caused conflicts to break out between FSA units allied to the Kurds and the al-Nusra Front.
"The jihadist militants attack Afrin from Azaz, Aleppo and Idlib. Up to now, al-Nusra and other groups have failed to capture a single settlement in the Canton. We are going to fight to the end to defend our land and our people," Firat Xelil, a representative of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces told Sputnik in December.
"Turkey is setting al-Nusra and the other jihadists against us, in the interests of taking Jarabulus under control. Furthermore, Turkey is engaged in the training of armed militants," Xelil told Sputnik at the time.
The motivations behind the current arrests are unknown, though FSA-affiliated Taleb told AFP that the al-Nusra Front also disapproves of what he called the station's "secular tendencies."
The United States military previously trained FSA fighters and supplied them with anti-tank TOW missiles, although nearly all fighters in the program reportedly defected to al-Nusra, which also seized the supplied TOW missiles.