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U.S. military officials acknowledged Friday that Syrian rebels trained and equipped by the U.S. turned over weapons and equipment to a group affiliated with al Qaeda earlier this week.
The acknowledgement came from the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command, which had earlier denied reports that the transaction between the New Syrian Forces and the Al Nusra Front had occurred. The material was handed over in exchange for safe passage in an area under the terror group's control, officials said.
"Today the NSF unit contacted coalition representatives and informed us that on Sept. 21-22 they gave six pickup trucks and a portion of their ammunition to a suspected Al Nusra Front intermediary," Col. Patrick Ryder, U.S. Central Command spokesperson, said in a statement Friday.
Ryder called the development "very concerning and a violation of Syria train and equip program guidelines."
Earlier this week, the Al Nusra Front posted on Twitter claims that rebels had handed over all their weapons upon re-entering Syria.
Central Command said it analyzed a photo that accompanied the post and determined the claim to be false. A Pentagon spokesman said it dismissed that Tweet because the Al Nusra Front contained a "repurposed old photo." The New Syrian Forces had said they still had control of all their weapons and equipment.
On Friday, the New Syrian Forces backed off that claim, officials said.
"In light of this new information, we wanted to ensure the public was informed as quickly as possible about the facts as we know them at this time," Ryder said. "We are using all means at our disposal to look into what exactly happened and determine the appropriate response."