Turkey-backed Islamists oust US soldiers from Syrian town

Turkish-backed Syrian Islamist rebels under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) drove out at least 29 US special forces from the town of al-Rai in northern Syria on Friday.
author_image Ari Khalidi
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) - Turkish-backed Syrian Islamist rebels under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) drove out at least 29 US special forces from the town of al-Rai in northern Syria on Friday.
 
The US soldiers arrived in al-Rai from the nearby Turkish border to support the FSA in an advisory role for a push southward into the Islamic State-held territory between the Kurdish cantons of Afrin and Kobani, said the Turkish private Dogan news agency.
 
Videos posted on social media showed dozens of Turkey-backed rebels shouting "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is the greatest) as American special forces leave al-Rai on gun mounted trucks.
 
The monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the expulsion by protest of the US forces from al-Rai but said they were still on Syrian territory.
 
Syrian FSA rebels supported from the air and on the ground by the Turkish army captured al-Rai on August 27, on the fourth day of the Operation Euphrates Shield that aims to clear IS from Turkey's southern border and obstruct Kurdish ambition of creating a contiguous region there.
 
In a video on Twitter purportedly showing the incident, an Islamist rebel recording the departure of American soldiers can be heard saying "We don't want Americans to fight side by side with us. Allahu Akbar. We are Muslims and not kuffar (infidels.) Come on, American."
 
Early on Friday Wall Street Journal citing American officials reported that the US has agreed to send "about 40 special-operations troops to work alongside Turkish forces to fight Islamic State in northern Syria."
 
The US already has hundreds of special forces deployed inside Syria embedded since earlier this year with the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and its multi-ethnic alliance of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the IS.
 
In another video, a rebel calls the driven-out American soldiers "dogs" and "pigs" as the crowd chants "our leader is Muhammad, our sayyed is Muhammad" in reference to Islam's founder while listening to a balaclava-wearing fighter threatening to behead US soldiers over an ambulance loudspeaker.
 
(Reporting by Ari Khalidi)
Editing by Ava Homa