Rebels buying arms from regime agents

ALEPPO, (Syria) — The Syrian regime may be their sworn enemy, but rebels fighting to bring down President Bashar Al Assad say they pay hard cash to government agents for guns and bullets.



By (AFP)

Published: Wed 31 Oct 2012, 9:10 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 3:17 PM

For Syria’s plethora of armed opposition groups, obtaining weapons is a constant struggle. Furious with the West for failing to provide heavy weaponry, they say they have little choice but to turn to alternative sources.

In a country where national service is compulsory, and a conflict where brothers fight on opposing sides and rebels defect from the armed forces, they say it is not difficult to find a “middleman” or an “old friend” to help. “We buy from Assad spies and on the market,” said Major Abu Mahar, puffing on a French cigarette over coffee at a gym requisitioned by his network of fighters as a base in the northern city of Aleppo. He claims to lead 200 men who conduct “special missions” against Assad’s forces. But like other units, they are poorly armed with machineguns, rocket-propelled grenades, sniper rifles and home-made rockets and bombs.

Seven Kalashnikovs hang upside down from hooks and a bucket of bullets sits in the corner of Abu Mahar’s office, which overlooks the mirror-lined workout room where bodybuilders used to flex their pecs.

Quietly spoken and hunched over in a leather jacket, he defected this summer from the air force. And like other rebels, he still has associates in various branches of the government military and security.

Abu Mahar says a bullet costs £ 110 Syrian ($1.60) to buy from the regime, compared with $2 on the market, declining to specify where that market might be.

He claims that most of his group’s ammunition supplies come from the shabiha, the term used to refer to state-sponsored militia hired by the government.


More news from WORLD