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.
Aleppo Province, Syria
In Pictures Battle for the heart of Syria: inside Aleppo
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Aleppo is a major front in the 20-month conflict between the regime of President Bashar al Assad and the opposition fighting him. Opposition activists said Thursday the civil war has now claimed about 39,000 lives.
In Aleppo Province, the opposition's Abu Bakr Al Sadiq Brigade specializes in rockets, though it also produces hand grenades and other weapons. Brigade leaders recently displayed their newest creation – a rocket with a warhead that is the biggest they've made yet, weighing in at about 13 pounds. Though they're still testing it, they hope to soon send it to war as well.
With few weapons flowing to the armed Syrian opposition from outside Syria, the fighters turned to producing their own – like rockets, mortars, pipe bombs, hand grenades, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – early in the conflict. But in recent months, the efforts to manufacture rockets, in particular, appear to have become more organized.
Efficient rocket "factories" that churn out significant numbers of the weapons appear to be replacing more haphazard and scattered efforts, particularly around Aleppo, says Eliot Higgins, who tracks the weapons of the Syrian conflict on his blog Brown Moses. In the past few months, videos of such operations have begun appearing more frequently on the YouTube channels run by groups of fighters and activists, which he monitors.
In the Abu Bakr Al Sadiq headquarters, a high-ceilinged room that looks like a former workshop, leaders recently showed off several of their rockets and other handiwork. On the floor sat a clear plastic bag full of handmade grenades. One man in camouflage fatigues sat behind a desk passing out ammunition to fighters. The group's leader asked that its location not be revealed to avoid being targeted by regime bombs.
Many of those in the room show signs of having been in close proximity to the fighting: One man has a cast on his leg; another a shrapnel wound in his soldier. The brigade's leader, Yasser El Sheikh, laughs when asked how he injured his fourth finger, which is now in a splint.
Mr. Sheikh says his group has manufactured close to 1,000 rockets. They send all of their weapons to the Tawhid Division, one of the largest fighting groups in Aleppo, for use in battle there. He says, with annoyance, that Tawhid has begun posting videos on YouTube taking credit for weapons he says were manufactured by his brigade.