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Global Conflicts/Terrorism

LIBYA/FIGHTERSBack
[Published: Tuesday August 14 2012]

 Libyan fighters join Syrian revolt

Beirut, 14 Aug – (ANA) - Veteran fighters of last year's civil war in Libya have come to the front-line in Syria, helping to train and organise rebels under conditions far more dire than those in the battle against Muammar Gaddafi, a Libyan-Irish fighter has told Reuters. Hussam Najjar hails from Dublin, has a Libyan father and Irish mother and goes by the name of Sam. A trained sniper, he was part of the rebel unit that stormed Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli a year ago, led by Mahdi al-Harati, a powerful militia chief from Libya's western mountains. Harati now leads a unit in Syria, made up mainly of Syrians but also including some foreign fighters, including 20 senior members of his own Libyan rebel unit. He asked Najjar to join him from Dublin a few months ago, Najjar said. The Libyans aiding the Syrian rebels include specialists in communications, logistics, humanitarian issues and heavy weapons, he said. They operate training bases, teaching fitness and battlefield tactics. Najjar said he was surprised to find how poorly armed and disorganised the Syrian rebels were, describing Syria's Sunni Muslim majority as far more repressed and downtrodden under Assad than Libyans were under Gaddafi. In the months since he arrived, the rebel arsenal had become "five times more powerful", he said. Fighters had obtained large calibre anti-aircraft guns and sniper rifles. Disorganisation is a serious problem. Unlike the Libyan fighters, who enjoyed the protection of a NATO-imposed no-fly zone and were able to set up full-scale training camps, the rebels in Syria are never out of reach of Assad's air power. "In Libya, with the no-fly zone, we were able to build up say 1,400 to 1,500 men in one place and have platoons and brigades. Here we have men scattered here, there and everywhere." Although many rebel units fight under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, their commands are localised and poorly coordinated, Najjar said.Syria's uprising has evolved into an all-out civil war with sectarian overtones, pitting the mainly Sunni rebels against security forces dominated by Assad's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. Assad is backed by Shi'ite-led Iran and opposed by most Arab states, which are ruled by Sunnis. "This is not just about the fall of Assad. This is about the Sunni Muslims of Syria taking back their country and pushing out the minority that have been oppressing them for generations now," Najjar said.The presence of foreign fighters is a sensitive issue for Syria's rebels. Assad's government has taken to referring to the rebels as "Gulf-Turkish forces", accusing the Sunni-led Arab Gulf states and Turkey of arming, funding and leading them. (ANA)

FA/ANA/14 August 2012--------

 


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