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Syrian Rebels Make Do With Hodgepodge Of Weapons

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Syria's rebels have been begging sympathetic governments for months to send them weapons in their battle against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

However, such help appears minimal at best, and the rebels have had to rely heavily on what they capture during battles, what they smuggle in from abroad or what they can make themselves.

New York Times reporter C.J. Chivers and photographer Bryan Denton recently spent several days with the rebels near Aleppo, in northern Syria, and witnessed how they were putting together their aresenal.

"They developed a sort of underground arms industry that manufactures all sorts of weapons. These are being made by local tradesmen," Chivers told All Things Considered host Melissa Block.

"There's a painter who's responsible for making many of explosives because he has experience in mixing chemicals," he says. "There are electricians who are making and wiring the circuits for bombs and putting together the detonators. And there are machinists who make the bodies of rockets and mortar shells."

Chivers also met an arms smuggler from Iraq who said that weapons the US provided to the Iraqi security forces are now being sold on the black market. Both the Syrian rebels and pro-government militias are buying these weapons from Iraqi smugglers, Chivers said.

Denton's photos show the rebels and their various armaments.

Their reporting also includes the video at the top of this post that shows the rebels with a pro-government militiaman they captured. The rebels tell the soldier they will release him by putting him in a truck. All he has to do is drive to a checkpoint manned by government soldiers and he will be free.

But it's a deception. The truck is rigged with a homemade bomb that is to be detonated when the captured soldier reaches the checkpoint.

"He was not to be freed. He was to be an unwitting suicide bomber," says Chivers, who narrates the video. "The prisoner had fallen for their deception and driven to the target."

Watch the video and find out what happens.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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