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Islamic militants help seize missile base in Syria
Advanced arms » The assault triggers fears of powerful weapons falling into the hands of extremists.


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The regime, which has received much more advanced surface-to-air missiles from Russia in recent years, probably did not make defending the site a priority, he said.

It also remains unclear if the rebels held the base after storming it. Rebel forces are largely helpless against the regime’s attack jets and helicopters, which bomb rebel and civilians areas daily.

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One Aleppo activist said the rebels had taken all the munitions they could from the base, and he hoped they could find a way to use the missiles against Assad’s air force.

"We have asked all countries to help us with anti-aircraft weapons and no one has, so hopefully these will help," said the activist, Mohammed Saeed.

In any case, it was not clear how much the rebels would be able to make use of the missiles.

"Anyone trying to use these will need to be extremely well trained both in fueling up the missiles and then tracking the target and using the fire control radar," said Jim O’Halloran, an expert in air defense systems at IHS Jane’s.

Meanwhile, the fallout deepened from a Syrian passenger jet forced to land in neighboring Turkey, as Russia said the plane traveling from Moscow to Damascus was carrying radar parts that were being transported legally.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov insisted the plane was carrying a legitimate cargo of "electric equipment for radars," but he added that it was of "dual purpose," meaning it could have civilian and military applications.

"It’s not forbidden by any international conventions," Lavrov said, adding that the Russian company that sent it to Syria will demand that Turkey return the cargo. He didn’t name the Russian company or the cargo’s recipient in Syria.

Russia has been Assad’s main supporter and ally, shielding him from international sanctions over his crackdown on the uprising.


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Turkey’s prime minister has said the plane was carrying ammunition and military equipment for the Syrian Defense Ministry. Turkish fighter jets intercepted the Syrian Airbus A320 on Wednesday amid heightened tensions between Turkey and Syria, fueled by recent cross-border shelling from Syria that killed five Turkish civilians.

Tensions continued Friday as Turkey’s military scrambled two F-16 fighter jets after a Syrian attack helicopter was seen over a Syrian border town where rebels and regime troops have been clashing for days, Turkey’s Dogan news agency reported.

It said the jets were sent to the border to prevent a possible incursion into Turkey by the helicopter, which soon disappeared from view.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry and military did not immediately confirm the report.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it recorded on Thursday its highest one-day death toll for government soldiers — 92 — since the start of the conflict.

It said most of the deaths took place in Idlib province, where some 20 soldiers were killed in a rebel attack on a government checkpoint.

Activists say more than 32,000 people have been killed as the conflict has evolved from a peaceful uprising to a brutal battle between rebels and government troops. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the fighting to neighboring countries.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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