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© The Times and The Sunday Times

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A Times reporter who was kidnapped and twice shot in the leg in Syria claims to have recognised his abductor on a recent Facebook video, which shows him in the ranks of a US-backed “moderate” opposition rebel group.

Journalist Anthony Loyd was captured on his way from Syria to Turkey along with his colleague, photographer Jack Hill, not far from the Syrian town of Tal Rafat in 2014, a week after they had started covering the situation in Aleppo.

“It was with some surprise watching a video of a victorious band of western-backed rebels that I noticed the face of America’s newest ally in the war against ISIS in Syria,” Loyd wrote in Britain’s Times newspaper on Saturday.

The Facebook video of a victory celebration by a CIA-vetted rebel group in the border town of al-Rai supposedly showed Hakim Abu Jamal, also known as Hakim Anza, or Abdel Hakim al-Yaseen.

Hakim Abu Jamal, the man behind the abduction, was a two-year acquaintance of both reporters. He welcomed them as guests the day before taking them hostage.

Loyd was shot twice by his former host, Abu Jamal, in the left ankle for trying to escape – and both he and Hill were given severe beatings while held captive.

“I remember him well from across the years. Now, Hakim, forage cap on his head, was standing in the middle of a group of 10 other Syrian rebel fighters all belonging to a CIA-vetted group,” Loyd wrote, sharing his harrowing experience.

The group, backed by Turkish artillery and the US Air Force, has been sent to the area to oust Islamic State fighters stationed at a key stretch of road leading to the town of Jarabulus, which was recaptured last month.

Two years ago Jamal used to be a leader of a gang, Loyd added, that was seeking to receive a kidnap ransom for the two reporters.

“He has apparently transformed effortlessly from criminal pariah to a worthy foot soldier,” Loyd wrote.

Loyd claims that Jamal’s “extremist links are well documented” while his profile is in possession of at least three intelligence services, including Turkey’s MIT and Britain’s MI6. However, judging from the video, Jamal has now made it into a CIA-vetted Syrian rebel group, First Regiment (al-Fawj al-Awwal).

The publication noted that US Central Command failed to respond to Times requests to explain “how such a well-known hostage taker with family connections to extremists could have passed US vetting procedures.”

The CIA has been training and equipping various rebel groups regarded as “moderate” since 2013 in an effort to topple current Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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