Where Syria's opposition groups get their rockets (+video)
With few weapons flowing to the rebels fighting the Syrian regime, homemade rockets, mortars, and hand grenades have become increasingly used in the fight.
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The brigade's weapons manufacturers are a combination of former military men with weapons expertise and civilians who are chemical or other engineers. Some of their information comes from the Internet, but the learning curve was steep. One grenade-maker says he twice blew up rooms in his house while learning how to mix explosives.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Battle for the heart of Syria: inside Aleppo
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Like many of the groups making improvised weapons for the Syrian opposition, the brigade sometimes uses harvested explosives from unexploded regime bombs. They also make explosives using fertilizer and other, easy to come by ingredients, such as sugar. The group must also manufacture the propellant used in their rockets.
The brigade displays videos of dozens of rockets that were sent to the front in Aleppo, before bringing out their newest creation – the rocket with a warhead that weighs about 13 pounds. Most of the rockets they make have warheads packed explosives that weighed half of that. The new one will pack a stronger punch, but is also harder to propel, says Sheikh. "The most important thing about this missile is the material which propels it," he says. "It is difficult to send this large weight by missile."
Yet he's proud of the weapon. "You won't find a rocket like this in all the Middle East," says Sheikh. Mr. Higgins, who examined photos of the rocket, said its payload appears larger than those he regularly sees in videos.
In addition to rockets and hand grenades, pipe bombs and mortars, the opposition has effectively used IEDs to make parts of Aleppo and Idlib provinces dangerous terrain for regime vehicles.
The armed opposition turned to homemade weapons out of necessity. Many nations, including the United States, have refused to arm the fighters, and have kept others from sending heavy weapons as well, out of concern that the weapons will end up in the wrong hands. Syria's armed opposition is fractured and does not have an effective top-down control and command structure, and the hundreds of foreign jihadi fighters that have joined the ranks of the opposition have only increased such worries.
On the front lines of Aleppo recently, ammunition was not plentiful. Many outposts had only a few rocket propelled grenades and rationed their bullets. On the front line in Karem Al Jabal, opposition fighter Mohamed Al Qaraqash had more homemade grenades than conventional ones, and was using them with relish. Hurling one over the wall toward a regime position, he waited for the satisfactory boom before hunkering down when regime soldiers fired back.