CIA helps push through weapons shipments to Syrian rebels - reports
Syrian rebel fighters prepare to go into battle in Aleppo. (AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC)
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The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has helped Arab countries and Turkey increase military aid to Syrian rebels in the past few months, The News York Times reported on Monday.
The report – citing air traffic data, interviews with unnamed officials as well as statements of rebel commanders – said the airlift now includes more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, as well as at other Jordanian and Turkish airports.
CIA agents assisted Arab countries in shopping for arms, said The New York Times, adding there was a “large procurement” from Croatia.
It also said that U.S. intelligence officers checked up on rebel groups and chiefs to determine who should receive the military aid and that Turkey oversaw much of the program.
"A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment," Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told the paper.
"The intensity and frequency of these flights," were "suggestive of a well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation,” he added.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has killed more than 70,000 people since the March 2011 uprising, according to the United Nations.