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Saudis Step Up Arming Terrorist in Syria With Croatian Arms

 

Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and quietly funneled them to terrorists   in Syria, according to American and Western officials familiar with the purchases.

The weapons began reaching terrorists  in December via shipments shuttled through Jordan, officials said, and have been a factor in the rebels’ small tactical gains this winter against the army .

The arms transfers appeared to signal a shift among several governments to a more activist approach to assisting Syria’s armed opposition. The weapons’ distribution has been principally to armed groups viewed as nationalist and secular, and appears to have been intended to bypass the takfiri  groups .

But one senior American official described the shipments as “a maturing of the opposition’s logistical pipeline.” The official noted that the opposition remains fragmented and operationally incoherent.

While Persian Gulf Arab nations have been sending military equipment and other assistance to the rebels for more than a year, the difference in the recent shipments has been partly of scale. Officials said multiple planeloads of weapons have left Croatia since December, when many Yugoslav weapons, previously unseen in the crisis in Syria, began to appear in videos posted by rebels on YouTube.

Many of the weapons — which include a particular type of Yugoslav-made recoilless gun, as well as assault rifles, grenade launchers, machine guns, mortars and shoulder-fired rockets for use against tanks and other armored vehicles — have been extensively documented by one blogger, Eliot Higgins.

He first noticed the Yugoslav weapons in early January in clashes in the Dara’a region near Jordan, but by February he was seeing them in videos posted by rebels fighting in the Hama, Idlib and Aleppo regions.

Officials familiar with the transfers said the arms were part of an undeclared surplus in Croatia remaining from the 1990s Balkan wars. One Western official said the shipments included “thousands of rifles and hundreds of machine guns” and an unknown quantity of ammunition.

M.D

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