News / Middle East

    Syrian Jihadist Fighters Getting Western Weapons

    Syria's al-Nusra rebels posted this photo of its fighters using an M-60 anti-tank weapons March 24.
    Syria's al-Nusra rebels posted this photo of its fighters using an M-60 anti-tank weapons March 24.
    A Syrian rebel group the Obama administration considers a terrorist organization is managing to obtain modern anti-tank weapons meant for other groups fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad, according to regional experts.
     
    The Jihadist Jabhat al-Nusra militia is managing to secure weapons being supplied by Saudi Arabia and Qatar to rebel brigades affiliated to the Free Syrian Army, the experts say. The Obama administration considers al-Nusra a terrorist organization because of suspected links with al-Qaida.

    The weapons include the Croatian-made M79 portable 90 mm anti-tank gun and M60 recoilless anti-tank weapons. Regional experts say Saudi Arabia and Qatar had been supplying such weapons to rebel units more acceptable to the West, mainly secular or nationalist-focused groups such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) brigades fighting to oust the Assad government.

    Croatian-made weapons

    According to the experts, the weapons are now appearing in the hands of al-Nusra fighters in videos posted by group on Jihadist websites.

    In February, the New York Times first reported that the Saudis were supplying Syrian rebels with arms bought from Croatia. The supply operation was prompted by the fear in the West, and among Gulf allies, that Jihadist groups were better equipped than other rebel units and were increasingly able to dominate the anti-Assad movement.

    The newspaper reported Monday that U.S. Central Intelligence Agency consultants were helping Arab nations and Turkey in getting heavy weapons to the Syrian rebels despite Washington’s public stance against supplying such weapons itself.

    Citing air traffic data and interviews with unnamed officials and rebel commanders, the Times said the weapons airlift to the rebels had grown to include more than 160 military flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

    Reports of CIA assistance

    Croatian weaponry believed to be part of those airlifts had been seen being used earlier this year by other Jihadist groups fighting in Syria, but al-Nusra videos posted on the internet this weekend showed for the first time their fighters using the M79 and M60 antitank weapons.

    Syria's al-Nusra rebels post a photo of its fighters using an M-79 anti-tank weapon.Syria's al-Nusra rebels post a photo of its fighters using an M-79 anti-tank weapon.
    x
    Syria's al-Nusra rebels post a photo of its fighters using an M-79 anti-tank weapon.
    Syria's al-Nusra rebels post a photo of its fighters using an M-79 anti-tank weapon.
    “Neither of these weapons are locally available, either from the black market or looted from the Syrian army because they don't have them,” said British-based weapons researcher, Eliot Higgins, who first spotted the videos. “That's what made them so easy to track; they stand out like sore thumbs in Syria.”

    Since announcing its formation in Syria in early 2012, Jabhat al-Nusra has grown rapidly and is considered one of the most effective forces opposing the Assad government.

    The rise of al-Nusra, which has homegrown fighters in its ranks as well foreign jihadists drawn from elsewhere in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, has complicated Western considerations about whether and how to supply arms to the Syrian rebels.
     
    British and French want stepped-up shipments
     
    The British and French governments have been pushing to increase the flow of weapons to the Syrian rebels, but other European nations have resisted, arguing that the equipment could fall into the hands of jihadist groups such as al-Nusra. Critics of the Anglo-French position said the intended recipients of the weapons, the FSA rebel units, worked too closely with al-Nusra to keep the weapons to themselves.
     
    “We were concerned that the FSA is not really a cohesive force with a single command-and-control structure, but is far more a loose alliance of rebel brigades,” says a German diplomat based in Brussels. “We didn’t believe the FSA could or would even bother to police who received any European-supplied weaponry. FSA units fight alongside al-Nusra and other Jihadists.”
     
    Al-Nusra, like other rebel units, also uses weapons it seizes from captured Syrian army facilities.
     
    This past Saturday, al-Nusra fighters joined other rebel units in overrunning an air defense base in southern Syria’s Daraa Province near the border with Jordan. Videos posted by al-Nusra appeared to show rebel fighters carting off portable surface-to-air missiles, often called SAMS or MANPADS, for “Man-Portable-Air-Defense-System.”
     
    Syrian rebels have been urging the West and Gulf countries for months to supply the rebellion with such anti-aircraft missiles, but the Obama administration has said “no.” It also has urged allied not to supply such missiles, fearing they would fall into the wrong hands.
     
    But with each capture of Syrian army bases, though, there are opportunities for rebels, Jihadists included, to seize anti-aircraft missiles, Western security officials say.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    April 01, 2013 3:23 AM
    The USA is extremely self serving and short sighted when it comes to dealing with other nations. Keep in mind, that the MB rebels hate for the USA is deep, and they will use the USA and others to achieve their goal.

    by: Anonymous
    March 27, 2013 10:55 AM
    Has the White House been misleading the public by repeatedly denying it was coordinating arms shipments to the rebels in Syria, insurgents known to consist in large part of al-Qaida and other jihadist groups?

    Other top U.S. officials and former officials, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have implied in congressional testimony that they didn’t know about any U.S. involvement in procuring weapons for the rebels.


    by: mustafa from: pakistan
    March 25, 2013 11:28 PM
    Saudia arabia is the birth place of AL QAIDA. Al Qaida is responsible for killing of innocent peoples in different parts of the world. According to Saudia arabia and Al Qaida killing of innocent peoples and destroy properties is BIG achievement in life and they will go to Paradise with is seconds after death. Can any body give me any reference in Quran that these killers will go to paradise.

    WEST MUST stop all types of shipments which will increase BASIC problems of common people. I am sure OPPosition is doing all this drama to gain power and enjoy their life at the cost of poor people. They cannot do any thing good for poor people. HISTORY will tell us who is right and who is wrong. ALL SPONSORS will be accountable in front of GOD on day of judgement so be prepare your self for those questions. If any body think that he can scape from accountability then better to live in your dream world.

    by: ali baba from: new york
    March 25, 2013 9:24 PM
    this another foolish mistake by American policy maker..Byy giving weapons to radical Muslim, it might be used against American interest. it happen in Libya and it is repeated again in Syria.
    is American learn from their mistake

    by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
    March 25, 2013 5:15 PM
    There is no point in the US refusal of anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons to opposition groups in Syria, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar are indiscriminately supplying such weapons to jihadists and other terrorist groups in Syria. Even if no advanced weapons are supplied to the opposition groups in Syria, the jihadists and terrorists obtain these weapons from the captured Syrian military sites.

    The supply of advanced weapons by UK and France will enhace the speedy removal of Assad. While the US spends millions of dollars for the refugees and internally displaced persons, these huge expenses can be reduced on long term by supplying a few million dollars worth of advanced weapons to Syrian opposition groups. If the US supplies so called non-lethel equipments such as armored vehicles and night vision goggles, why don't the US supply anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to the same group receiving the non-lethal weapons? Is the US supplying non-lethal weapons indiscriminately to the jihadists and terrorists also? If not, the US should supply the lethal weapns who receive the non-lethal weapons.

    The inertia of US in international affairs, make France and UK the champions of freedom while the President Obama takes a nap with his Nobel Peace Prize under his pillow!. For political reasons in the US, President Obama does not want to publicise the supply of arms to the Syrian opposition, while indulging in the supply arms by the CIA to the Syrian opposition through intermediary countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

    Russia declared that they are supplying lethal weapons to Assad. Iran also supply lethal weapons to Assad, but claims that they don't supply arms to Assad. Arms supply to Assad flows to Assad through Hezbollah in Lebanon and also through Iraq. Under these circumstances the US should supply arms to the Syrian rebels to curb massacre in Syria and shorten the agony of Syrian people.

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