ABU DHABI (Reuters) - An Islamist militant group fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria said in a video posted online on Sunday it had captured five Yemeni army officers sent by their government to help quell the Syrian uprising.
The video by Al Nusra Front showed clips of five men in civilian clothes asking the Yemeni government to stop supporting the Assad regime. The authenticity of the recording could not immediately be verified.
One of the men identified himself as Mohammed Abdo Hezam al-Meleiky and said the Yemeni government had sent him and his colleagues to Damascus to help Assad’s forces in the civil war raging across the country.
“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,” he said in the online video.
The men’s identity cards were shown in the online video, along with pictures of them in military uniform.
The Al Nursa Front has previously claimed attacks on Syrian government targets, including suicide attacks on the Syrian army staff building last week.
A Yemeni rights group said the five men were army officers studying at a military academy in Aleppo who went missing in August after fighting between rebels seeking to oust Assad and his opponents spread to the city in northern Syria.
The Hood group said five Yemeni families on September 4 had reported their sons had disappeared while heading from Aleppo to Damascus on their way home after completing their studies.
The five men it named included Meleiky. A sixth Yemeni, a doctor, went missing after he was stopped by Syrian authorities at Damascus airport on August 13, it said.
“Hood had asked the foreign minister to exert all the efforts of the Yemeni government with the Syrian government and neighbouring governments to ensure the return of these citizens home,” the group said in a statement sent to Reuters.
The 18-month-old uprising against Assad began as peaceful protests but has descended into a civil war. More than 30,000 people have been killed, say activists.
Syria’s government says it is fighting Islamist hardliners and thousands of Arab and foreign fighters have entered the country from Turkey.
Reporting By Maha El Dahan in Abu Dhabi and Mohamed Ghobari in Sanaa; Editing by Sophie Hares