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Entries in Rebels (56)

Wednesday
Aug142013

Report: Sudan Supplying Arms to Syrian Rebels

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In a complicated arrangement, Syrian rebels have been getting arms supplies from the Republic of Sudan, the New York Times reports.

According to the paper, the Syrian opposition has been using weapons such as anti-aircraft missiles and small-arms cartridges that are made by Sudan and China.

The weapons are placed into rebel hands through a complex route, first being sold to Qatar, which opposes the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and then shipped through Turkey before winding up with opposition groups.

It remains unclear how much of an impact the weapons from Sudan have had in helping the rebels to fight the much-better-equipped Syrian army and its allies, including Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon.

However, the action seems to underscore the frustration the Syrian opposition feels as it awaits military help from the U.S. and Europe, which has been slow in coming.

Furthermore, Sudan's arms shipments also likely won't please close allies Iran and China, which support al-Assad's regimes.

The Times explains the motivation might purely be financial, as the west African nation is in dire economic straits.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May152013

Grisly Execution Videos Show Growing Brutality in Syria

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(RAQQA, Syria) -- The camera pans up from three blindfolded men with their hands bound to a rebel fighter speaking into a megaphone. He stands by a white pickup truck, his face covered with a white and red checkered scarf.

In classical Arabic, the man reads out the death sentence of the three men. It lasts one minute and 45 seconds before the man proclaims “God is great” and two of his comrades -- wearing black ski masks -- fire single bullets into each of the three captives’ heads. As they slump over, a crowd erupts in cheers with celebratory gunfire.

In the two years since the war in Syria started, there have been innumerable videos of summary executions, beheadings and the aftermath of massacres. But in recent days, the videos posted online from Syria have highlighted a deepening sectarianism and a brutality never before seen in this conflict.

The execution of the three men, who were officers of the Syrian government, took place in a public square in Raqqa, a northern city controlled by the Sunni, al Qaeda-linked extremist rebel group, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. The slain men were Alawites, the sect of Shia Islam that President Bashar al-Assad and his most loyal forces belong to.

”We respond to the criminal Bashar who is killing Sunnis everywhere,” the man with the megaphone said. “Now we decided to come close to God by killing those Alawites…”

The speaker in the Raqqa video said the executions were in revenge for -- among other things -- recent massacres in and around the majority Alawite coastal city of Baniyas in early May. There, regime forces are reported to have carried out “cleansing” operations of Sunni areas, slaughtering hundreds of men, women and children. Videos showed rows of dead bodies, shot or stabbed, as well as the charred remains of bodies burned in a building. Many more remain missing, feared dead.

“The fear of ethnic cleansing has increased among all populations of Syria and with good reason,” wrote Syria analyst Joshua Landis at the University of Oklahoma. “Sunnis claim today that the regime is effectively trying to clear many areas of its Sunni inhabitants.”

“If Assad reasserts his control over rebel held parts of Syria, large populations of Sunnis would likewise flee,” Landis continued. “They would fear ruthless retribution and possible massacres.”

The Raqqa public execution clip surfaced just days after another grisly video was posted online of a Sunni rebel commander slicing open the body of a dead regime soldier with a knife, removing his lung and biting into it.  “I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog,” the man says to the camera.

“Hopefully we will slaughter all of them [Alawites],” the commander, Khalid al-Hamad, later told TIME Magazine, which first uncovered the clip. “I have another video clip that I will send to them. In the clip, I am sawing another shabiha [pro-government militiaman] with a saw. The saw we use to cut trees. I sawed him into small pieces and large ones.”

As the world reacted with horror, the main political Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, condemned the action and called for the man to be tried. The military wing, the Free Syrian Army said it “completely rejects the ill-treatment of the wounded and the disfigurement of the dead.”

“It is not enough for Syria’s opposition to condemn such behavior or blame it on violence by the government,” said Nadim Houry, the Middle East deputy director of Human Rights Watch. “The opposition forces need to act firmly to stop such abuses.”

The clips have come to light as the U.S. and its allies continue to grapple with the question of arming the rebel forces, worried that any weapons could end up in the hands of extremists. Videos like that of the rebel eating the organs of his enemy have compounded those fears since he is part of what the West considers to be the more mainstream rebel forces, those that would theoretically receive any arms.

Syrian opposition leaders blame the West for the rise in sectarianism and extremists rebel groups like Jabhat al-Nusra which are among the most ferocious groups fighting Assad forces. It could have been stopped, they say, if the more moderate forces had been supported earlier.

Both the execution and “cannibal” videos rocketed around the Internet, creating a firestorm on social networking sites. Opposition activists argue they are isolated incidents not representative of the rebel forces fighting the Assad regime, while supporters of Assad argued that their true character is finally coming to light.

On both sides, many fear the sectarianism is now so deep-seated that Syria will never be able to recover from it.

“Two yrs ago, there was no such thing as decapitation, massacre & cannibalism in Syria,” wrote one Assad supporter on Twitter. “Today these barbaric acts are synonymous to the country.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar072013

Britain to Provide Armored Vehicles to Syrian Rebels

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- While stopping short of offering weapons, Britain has announced its intention to provide non-lethal support to the rebels battling government forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The millions of dollars' worth of support includes armored vehicles, body armor, search and rescue equipment, communications equipment and disease-prevention materials.

Foreign Secretary William Hague told Britain’s Parliament on Wednesday that the aid was a “necessary, proportionate and lawful" response to "extreme human suffering.”

Hague told Parliament the Syrian people were in “dire need” of help and the U.K. could not “look the other way” in the face of the escalating humanitarian crisis.

United Nations figures show two million people have been internally displaced, while another 400,000 have fled abroad since the start of this year.

Some members of Parliament expressed concern that Britain might be drifting towards military intervention in Syria.

Hague stated, “No Western government is advocating military intervention of Western nations into the conflict in Syria.  The discussion is entirely focused on the degree of assistance that can and should be delivered to the opposition.”

Still, he refused to rule out the possibility of military intervention in the future.

“In our view, if a political solution to the crisis in Syria is not found and the conflict continues, we and the rest of the E.U. will have to be ready to move further, and we should not rule out any option for saving lives,” Hague told Parliament.

The leader of the Free Syrian Army, Gen. Salim Idriss, who defected from forces loyal to Assad last year, told the BBC that opposition forces desperately needed weapons and ammunition.  He called on the European Union to lift its current arms embargo

The two-year-long conflict has claimed some 70,000 lives.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan072013

Opposition Military Forces Target Key Syrian Air Base

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Rebel forces in Syria have intensified their attacks on President Bashar al-Assad's military by continually pummeling Taftanaz Air Base in the country's northwest.

Not far from the city of Idlib, one of the main hot spots during the near two-year-long conflict, the air base has lately been under siege as rebels attempt to prevent further attacks on Syrian towns by military jets and helicopters.

One such raid, reported by an opposition group, focused on the city of Taftanaz and allegedly involved Syrian air forces using powerful cluster bombs.

Opposition fighters have been conducting their own assault on Taftanaz Air Base with tanks and anti-aircraft guns.  Keeping the military's planes grounded could be instrumental in their efforts to wear down government forces.

Although Washington and much of the West want the rebels to succeed, there are also reports that the extremist al-Nusra Front, which is a considered an al-Qaeda affiliated group, is also active in the same region as the air base.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec202012

US Says Syria Has Resumed Launching Scuds at Rebels

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Within the past day, the Assad regime in Syria once again launched Scud missiles at rebel-held areas in the northwest part of the country, U.S. officials said.

Last week, officials said the Syrian regime fired five missiles from the Damascus area into an area west of the northern city of Aleppo, near the border with Turkey.  The move was seen as an escalation of the nearly two-year conflict in Syria.

The latest missile salvos once again targeted the area near Aleppo, according to a U.S. official.  Military forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad launched between four and six of the medium-range missiles from the Damascus area towards targets outside of the northern city, the official said.

The missiles were launched in multiple waves and did not carry chemical weapons, another U.S. official said.

A Defense Department spokesman would not confirm directly that there had been new Scud launches on Thursday, but added, “We have noted the Syrian regime’s use of Scud missiles in the conflict and that continues.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec052012

Rebels Blamed for Deadly Mortar Attack on Syrian School

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Violence is reaching a fever pitch in Damascus and its surrounding communities as a school was struck by mortar fire on Tuesday, leaving at least 29 people dead in what the Syrian state news agency alleged was an attack by rebel forces.

According to SANA, a shell struck the school in the northern suburb of Bteeha, killing a teacher and children.  The news agency said it was the work of "terrorists," the label President Bashar al-Assad has given to the opposition seeking his ouster after 20 months of fighting and fatalities in the tens of thousands.

Since the conflict has intensified over the past several months, rebels have been blamed for numerous assaults on government targets that have killed innocent civilians.  There has even been acknowledgement from their supporters of this happening.

However, it remained unclear Tuesday who was responsible for the mortar strike on the Bteeha school, with a network of rebel groups called the Local Coordinating Committees refusing comment.

The town is one of many on the way to the central city of Homs, a flashpoint of violence between government forces and rebels.  Bteeha, until Tuesday, had been largely immune from the fighting.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov202012

Islamic Militant Groups Oppose New Syria Coalition

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- The new Syria opposition coalition endorsed by the U.S., Turkey and Arab countries is getting the cold shoulder from extremist Islamist groups fighting in Syria.

Formed last week, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces has set up headquarters in Cairo and is seeking international recognition as it prepares for Syria without President Bashar al-Assad as its head of state.

But in addition to it being rejected by Damascus, the new coalition is also running into problems with certain militant groups whose mission is to impose an "Islamic state" in Syria once al-Assad is deposed.

In a video released last weekend, the Islamists promised not to be dictated by rules coming from outside Syria, declaring, "Make the Koran your constitution and you will prosper!"

There is hope that the coalition might still succeed despite the numerous factions operating in Syria over the past 20 months since the video's message was derided by the commanders of the Free Syrian Army, the main rebel group seeking to establish democratic reforms with or without al-Assad's at the helm.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov162012

The UK May Soon Recognize Syrian Rebel Group

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- So far, France is the only Western nation to formally recognize the Syrian opposition group, but the United Kingdom may soon join the French.

U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague is scheduled to meet Friday with leaders of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.

According to a BBC report, Hague wants to ask the leaders of the Syrian rebel umbrella group about “their way forward.”

The United States and the U.K. have both expressed support for the umbrella group, but have stopped short of recognizing it as a government in exile.  Hague has stated the rebels need “to win over the middle ground of opinion in Syria to work effectively together, to be inclusive, to respect human rights, to have a clear plan for political transition in Syria.”

British officials are also discussing the possible lifting of the European Union embargo that prevents the shipment of arms to the rebels fighting in Syria.  The French government has already called on its fellow EU members to ease the arms embargo on Syria in order to enable “defensive arms” to reach those fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

An estimated 35,000 people have died since the uprising began 20 months ago.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov152012

Syria Launches More Air Strikes, Blasts French Recognition of Rebel Coalition

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Syrian authorities on Wednesday ordered additional air strikes against rebels in villages close to the Turkish border, and blasted a French government decision to formally recognize the newly-formed Syrian rebel coalition.

Faisal al-Miqdad, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, said France’s decision to recognize the Syrian rebel umbrella group, which calls itself the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, “is an immoral position because it allows the killing of Syrians,” according to AFP.  

“They are supporting killers, terrorists, and they are encouraging the destruction of Syria,” al-Miqdad added.

French President Francois Hollande said this week that the umbrella group is the “only representative of the Syrian People and therefore...the future provisional government of a democratic Syria.”

France is the first Western nation to formally recognize the new organization.

At his news conference Wednesday, President Obama said he was “encouraged” to see that the Syrian opposition created an umbrella group.

The president said the U.S. considers the group “a legitimate representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people,” but quickly added that the United States was “not yet prepared to recognize them as some sort of government in exile....”   He said the coalition is viewed as a “broad-based representative group.”

Obama said two crucial issues remain for the United States.  He stated that the U.S. wants to be sure that the opposition “is committed to a democratic Syria, an inclusive Syria, a moderate Syria.”   The president said the U.S. also wants to prevent any flow of arms from reaching extremist elements “who would do Americans harm, or do Israelis harm, or otherwise engage in actions that are detrimental to our national security.”

An estimated 35,000 people have died since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began nearly 20 months ago.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov132012

France Recognizes New Syrian Coalition; May Arm Rebels 

BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/GettyImages(PARIS) -- France has taken the step of formally recognizing the new Syrian opposition coalition as the “only representative of the Syrian people and therefore as the future provisional government of a democratic Syria.” With that, France became the only Western nation so far to recognize the coalition.

President Hollande says the question of whether to send weapons to the rebels -- a policy opposed by France until now -- will be reconsidered. He added that a military operation to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would only include France if the United Nations approved it.

The U.S. and Britain have been more cautious, backing the coalition but stopping short of formal recognition. Gulf Arab states -- but not the Arab League -- have also recognized the new umbrella group.

Questions remain about the coalition's legitimacy in the eyes of armed rebels on the ground as well as minority groups inside Syria, some of which are rumored to have ties to Al Qeada and other terror groups.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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