The Straits Times
Published on Oct 30, 2012

Syrian rebels 'buying arms from the regime'


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

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 line Mr Assad's coffers.

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 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 Mr Assad's forces. But like other units, they are poorly armed with machineguns, rocket-propelled grenades, sniper rifles and home-made rockets and bombs.