Syria sees Russia game changer, US-trained rebels enter fray

 Syria predicted today that Russia's growing military role will prove a game changer in the fight against jihadists, as 75 rebels trained under a beleaguered US programme entered the fray.

Damascus: Syria predicted today that Russia's growing military role will prove a game changer in the fight against jihadists, as 75 rebels trained under a beleaguered US programme entered the fray.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, in contrast, said Moscow's support for the regime in Damascus only risked sending more extremists to war-torn Syria and could further hamper peace efforts.

"More important than the supply of arms to Syria is Russia's participation in the fight against Daesh and Al-Nusra Front," Al-Qaeda's franchise in the country, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.

Muallem, quoted by Syrian media in an interview with Russia Today television, said Moscow's increased role would "show up America's lack of a clear strategy" against the jihadists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has provided vital support to his Syrian counterpart President Bashar al-Assad throughout the armed revolt against the Damascus regime that erupted in 2011.

Moscow argues that any military support is in line with existing defence contracts, but reports have surfaced this month of secret deployments to Syria, where Russia has a naval facility.

Washington, which has led an international coalition carrying out air strikes against IS in both Syria and neighbouring Iraq over the past year, has repeatedly warned Moscow that bolstering Assad will only make the situation worse.

A US-backed rebel faction and a monitoring group said today that 75 Syrian rebels trained to fight jihadists under a beleaguered US programme have crossed from Turkey into northern Syria.

"Seventy-five new fighters trained in a camp near the Turkish capital entered Aleppo province between Friday night and Saturday morning," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Hassan Mustafa, spokesman for the "Division 30" unit to which some of the rebels were deployed, confirmed to AFP that the group had entered Syria.

"Their training in Turkey lasted two months and they went directly to the front lines with Daesh. They are now in the town of Tal Rifaat," Mustafa said via the Internet.

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