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Croatia transit point for Syrian rebel arms: report

  • Rebels celebrate in a street in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa after capturing the city on March 4, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMAD AL-HUSSEIN)

ZAGREB: The Croatian capital has served for months as a transit point for Saudi-financed weapons for Syrian rebels, a local newspaper said Friday, but the report was swiftly denied by the government.

Some 75 civilian transport planes carrying weapons for the rebels battling the regime of President Bashar Assad took off from Zagreb airport between last November and February, the influential Jutarnji List reported citing unnamed diplomatic sources.

It said the transport of some 3,000 tons of weapons and ammunition was organized by the U.S. using Turkish and Jordanian air cargo companies.

The weapons originated from Croatia – notably guns, rocket and grenade launchers – as well as from several other European countries including Britain, it reported.

The Jutarnji List wrote that the weapons, financed by Saudi Arabia, were transported to Jordan and later transferred to Syria.

A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman denied the report. “Croatia was not selling or donating weapons to Syrian rebels,” Danijela Barisic told AFP.

The New York Times reported in late February that Saudi Arabia was supplying Syrian rebels with weapons bought from Croatia.

The Times, citing unidentified Western officials, said the Saudi-financed “large purchase of infantry weapons” was part of an “undeclared surplus” of arms left over from the Balkan wars in the 1990s and that they began reaching anti-regime fighters via Jordan in December.

Since then, The Times added, officials said “multiple planeloads” of weapons have left Croatia, with one quoted as saying the shipments included “thousands of rifles and hundreds of machine guns,” as well as an “unknown quantity of ammunition.”

The Croatian Foreign Ministry also denied that report.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 09, 2013, on page 10.
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