Terrorist fighters with an Al Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria seized weapons and other supplies meant for the secular Syrian Supreme Military Council, U.S. State Department and other western officials confirmed to TheBlaze.
According to reports from Syria, small arms and ammunition stashed at a warehouse located along the border town of Azaz supplied by Saudi Arabia and Qatar were taken more than a week ago by the Al Qaeda affiliate.
A State Department official with knowledge of the incident confirmed to TheBlaze that U.S. ready-to-eat meals, known as MREs, and other non-lethal supplies were taken by fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS. The group is extremely dangerous and threatened this month to "cleanse" towns along the border of any secular Muslims and pro-western opposition groups, according to reports.
A photo that purports to show Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham-linked Commander Muhajireen Kavkaz wa Sham inside a USAID tent.
"We can confirm that ISIS has seized control of a warehouse containing a small number of U.S. MREs intended for the Supreme Military Council," a State Department official told TheBlaze.
The clashes between the Free Syrian Army and the Al Qaeda affiliate in the town of Azaz, where the supplies were stolen from, "illustrates how vitally important it is that we continue to provide assistance to moderate opposition forces who share our deep concerns over the threat that extremists pose to the communities within Syria and to their country’s future," the official said.
In an interview with TheBlaze's TV "For The Record," Free Syrian Army ground commander Col. Riad El Asaad said his men would fight Al Qaeda factions that have penetrated Syria. El Asaad said he and many of his men are targets of the foreign Al Qaeda factions in his country.
The State Department official said that despite "extensive vetting to mitigate the risk," non-lethal assistance can end up in the hands of unintended recipients, such as terrorist groups.
"We continually stress the importance of all countries channeling non-lethal assistance through [the Syrian Opposition Coalition] and [the Supreme Military Council]," the official added. "We are working with our allies to marginalize terrorist organizations and prevent material support from outside the country reaching these groups."
Still, deciphering between opposition forces and terrorist groups is not simple.
James Carafano, a senior defense analyst, with the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, D.C. said the administration's failure to handle the Syrian crisis early on has led to major failures in current policy.
"The administration is essentially managed to be fueling both (Syria President Bashar Al) Assad's regime and the terrorist groups in this civil war simultaneously," Carafano said. "We're strengthening Assad's hand and we're sending non-lethal aid -- which is supposed to be aiding the secular fighters -- and watching it get funneled into the hands of the terrorists."
A Syrian rebel fighter points his gun toward pro-regime fighters as he holds a position in a building in the Syrian eastern town of Deir Ezzor, Sept. 26, 2013. (Getty Images)
According to a report from the Long War Journal website, two brigades with the Free Syrian Army that operate in Syria's Raqqah province have joined the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, the other major Al Qaeda group in Syria.
The Raqqah Revolutionaries Brigade and the God's Victory Brigade abandoned their secular command and pledged loyalty to the Al Nusrah last week, Reuters reported.
The Raqqah Revolutionaries Brigade is believed to have more than 700 fighters in its ranks. According to the Long War Journal, the "size of the God's Victory Brigade, which announced its merger with the Al Nusrah Front on Facebook, was not disclosed, but it is said to have 15 battalions." Those battalions can have dozens to hundreds of fighters, according to the website.
Rebel fighters hold their position on Sept. 26, 2013 in Syrian eastern town of Deir Ezzor. (Getty Images)
Earlier this week, TheBlaze reported on a photo of ISIS-linked Commander Muhajireen Kavkaz wa Sham, who along with other rebels, appeared to be donning battle gear and a rocket-propelled grenade inside a U.S. Agency for International Development tent.
"It looks like they got the tent from the raid on the depot," said a U.S. official, who asked not to be named due to the nature of their work. "It's not surprising - it happens in war zones - bad guys sometimes get their hands on weapons not intended for them."