Opposition: Syria using Russian-made copters against rebels

Special to WorldTribune.com

LONDON — Opposition sources and witnesses have reported the use of Russian combat
helicopters for operations by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military against the rebels and opposition in several
parts of Syria.

The Bashar Assad regime is using helicopter gunships against rebel forces, opposition sources say.

The sources said the Syrian Air Force flew the Mi-24 attack
helicopter against suspected rebel strongholds around such cities as Aleppo, Damascus and Homs.

In late March, an Mi-24 was seen firing rockets toward suspected
rebel strongholds north of Aleppo, deemed the business capital of Syria. The helicopter firing was seen in a video taken by an amateur photographer and displayed on opposition web sites.

The Syrian use of Russian military platforms disputed a pledge by the Kremlin that Assad’s military and security forces would not use Russian equipment for lethal operations. Over the last six months, Moscow has delivered such advanced weapons as the Yakhont P-800 cruise missile, the Iskander-E long-range rocket and the Buk air defense system.

In 1980, the Syrian military received 52 Mi-24 Hind helicopters. For
years, most of the fleet was said to have been inoperable because of a lack
of spare parts and maintenance.

The Mi-24s were said to have been used in so-called mopping-up
operations by the Syrian Army in Aleppo and northern Syria. After months of
unchallenged rebel control, the Army swept through the Aleppo region as well
as the Idlib province in late March.

The opposition, in an assertion confirmed by Western diplomats, said
Russia has also supplied Assad with unmanned aerial vehicles for
reconnaissance and battle damage assessments. The sources said the Syrian
military was also using Iranian-origin UAVs.

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