Libyan Veterans Lend Syrians a Hand

Fighter says rebels hamstrung by lack of no-fly zone
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2012 1:49 AM CDT
In Syria, Libyan Veterans Lend a Hand
Free Syrian Army soldiers are seen during clashes with government forces in Aleppo, Syria.    (AP Photo/Alberto Prieto)

Rebels battling Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria are getting assistance from people who might know a thing or two about getting rid of dictators: Reuters sits down with Hussam Najjar, a Libyan-Irish sniper, who says he is among many veterans of last year's Libyan conflict helping train Syrian rebels. Najjar, who says Syria's Sunni majority is even more downtrodden than Libyans were under Moammar Gadhafi, says 20 members of his own Libyan rebel unit are aiding the Syrians in areas including logistics and heavy weaponry.

Najjar repeated the rebel plea for a no-fly zone, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says is "not on the front burner," the AP reports. "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," Najjar says, complaining that a lack of unity is holding back the rebels. He describes the conflict as a sectarian one and warns that the West's failure to intervene will cause extremism to spread. "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," he says. (More Libyan rebels stories.)

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