Rebels begin to make their own weapons

ALEPPO PROVINCE — Lightly-armed Syrian rebels who face the warplanes, artillery and tanks of loyalists have turned to making their own weapons, in some cases even using video game controllers to fire them.

By (AFP)

Published: Sat 20 Oct 2012, 10:54 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 3:11 PM

The ragtag forces fighting to topple President Bashar Al Assad’s regime face shortages of almost everything, including ammunition, but they especially lack longer-range, heavier arms, and anti-aircraft weapons.

At a location in Aleppo province that rebels asked not be identified by name, arms-maker Abu Al Fadhel showed off a row of homemade weapons including a hand-grenade, a portable rocket-launcher, and various rockets with explosive warheads he said have ranges of up to several kilometres.

He said that as the range of the rockets is known, they can be aimed with the help of Google Maps and a compass.

Abu Al Fadhel, who wore a keffiyeh scarf over his face so his identity was not revealed on camera, said he was a scientific researcher and inventor who has worked in a number of fields.

But he has other experience also relevant to arms-making.

“I was an engineer, an explosives engineer in the Syrian Arab Army” in the 1970s, he said.

But Abu Al Fadhel has since turned strongly against the Syrian regime. A Syrian fighter jet can be seen carrying out sorties as Abu Al Fadhel spoke standing near his row of locally-made weapons — a stark illustration of the disparity in arms in the conflict.

It is necessary for the rebels to make weapons “because we lack all Western or foreign aid,” he said.Abu Al Fadhel said he worked on the first rockets by himself, but working with others, as he does now, is far more productive.

“If I was (working) alone, maybe I would make one per day, but I have the capability to make hundreds per day,” he claimed. “We have a production line, we have technicians.” In Aleppo, various homemade weapons are in use, though some display problems that still need to be worked out.

In the Old City neighbourhood, rebels struggled to unload a grey-painted mortar — which is powered by a car battery and fired using a PlayStation video game controller attached to a long cable — from the back of a small truck.

They cleaned its two tubes, then loaded it with locally-made mortar rounds for a strike against regime forces. From a safe distance, a rebel who gave his name as Abu Hurriyah (Father of Freedom) used the controller to trigger a spring-loaded rod on the end of one of the tubes that strikes the end of the round, firing it. It launched with a boom followed a few seconds later by a blast as it landed.

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