Syrian rebels are using US-made TOW anti-tank missiles again in their fight against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
Reports of the use of these advanced missiles, which are highly regulated by the CIA, have trailed off in recent months. But the use of TOWs seem to have roared back to life in February.
“The decrease happened after the record number of 115 TOWs recorded in October,” Qalaat al-Mudiq, a analyst of the Syrian conflict told The Daily Beast.
“There were 73 in November and 49 in December. There were no recorded TOW launches in January until the 12th, and that entire month saw only 22 in total,” al-Mudiq continued.
The TOW missiles, which had been provided to 39 US-approved anti-Assad militias, made a name for themselves in October of 2015, when rebels carried out what became known as a “tank massacre” on the regime forces.
But after a few quiet months, al-Mudiq reported that there had been 16 reports of TOW missile use in just the first three days of February.
Coinciding with these reports, is a video posted by the Free Syrian Army’s Northern Division, one of the CIA-backed groups, which allegedly shows them taking out a group of Russian military officials with one of the TOW missiles on February 3.
Russia’s state media outlet TASS did report on the deaths of Russian military advisors in Syria, but attributed the kills to ISIS.
Media associated with the Free Syrian Army later reported that “15 militants, including 3 Russian officers and 4 Assad’s forces officers,” had been killed by the TOW missiles.
While TOW missiles don’t represent an overwhelming part of the rebel’s arsenal, nor are they the most advanced missile systems currently available, they’re interesting because they’re highly regulated and monitored by the CIA.
“With the TOW, each 50-man team gets one launcher and five missiles. They’re told to make a video verifying the missiles’ use and bring the spent missile casings to show they haven’t sold them or whatever,” a Jordan-based rebel liaison with knowledge of the TOW supply chain told The Daily Beast.
The role of TOW missiles in the Syrian conflict show just how much what started as one nation’s civil war has become a proxy war between Eastern and Western powers.
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