World Bulletin / News Desk
Rebels fighting to depose Syrian president Bashar al Assad have for the first time acquired a small supply of surface-to-air missiles, according to a news report that a Western official did not dispute.
NBC News reported Tuesday night that the rebel Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen of the weapons, which were delivered to them via neighboring Turkey, whose government has been demanding Assad's departure with increasing vehemence.
Indications are that the U.S. government, which has said it opposes arming the rebels, is not responsible for the delivery of the missiles.
But some U.S. government sources have been saying for weeks that Arab governments seeking to oust Assad, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been pressing for such missiles, also known as MANPADs, for man-portable air-defense systems, to be supplied to the rebels.
In recent days, air operations against the rebels by Syrian government forces appear to have been stepped up, particularly around the contested city of Aleppo, making the rebels' need for MANPADs more urgent.
Precisely what kind of MANPADs have been delivered to Syrian rebels is unclear and NBC News did not provide details. Such weapons range from the primitive to highly sophisticated.
And even if the rebels do have the weapons, it is unclear whether they have the training to operate them effectively against Assad's air forces in the immediate future.
U.S. and allied officials acknowledged that officials of Saudi Arabia and Qatar were discussing whether surface-to-air missiles might help Syrian rebels bring down Russian-made helicopters and other aircraft the Syrian army was using to move troops between trouble spots.
Following the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, some intelligence experts estimated that as many as 10,000-15,000 MANPADs sets were looted from Libyan government stockpiles. The whereabouts of most of these are unknown.
Many U.S. officials have been wary of the notion of arming Syrian rebels with MANPADs, noting that they could be easily turned on targets other than the Syrian government, including civilian airliners.
After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the CIA, with Saudi backing, provided sophisticated shoulder-fired Stinger missiles to Islamic fighters seeking to oust Soviet troops.
Human rights watch calls decision to dismiss charges against former leader for role in 2010 violent crackdown of protesters serious setback for accountability.
Fighters from the self-styled 'Islamic State' (IS) have demonstrated knowledge of the CIA's waterboarding interrogation method.
Senegal, a major hub for the business and aid community in West Africa, became the region's fifth country to confirm a case of Ebola
Mosques, monasteries, churches, tombs, shrines and archaeological sites were all under threat by rebels from the self-styled 'Islamic State' (IS) militia
The murder of U.S. journalist James Foley almost two weeks ago by a man suspected of being a British national has prompted demaands for extra security measures
The number of Syrian refugees left stranded by their country's ongoing civil war has surpassed 3 million, and 6.5 million are also displaced within Syria
Sharif said he had nothing to do with the army's decision to step into the conflict. But the army swiftly denied this, saying it had been specifically instructed by the government to step in.
About 80 U.N. soldiers from the Philippines remain locked down in two camps on the Syrian side of the frontier
A spokesman for Libya's renegade general Khalifa Haftar denied the claim that one of his planes was shot down by the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council.
Ukrainian officials say public support for joining the alliance is mounting, and they have increasingly spoken about needing the formal protection of the alliance.
A crowd of young men, some armed with clubs and knives, set up barricades across the southern city and threatened to attack the hospital before security forces moved in to restore order
South African Magistrate Stanley Mkhari said four men - two Rwandan and two Tanzanians - were guilty of the first count to commit murder four years ago
Jimmy Carter, who is 2006 wrote a book that criticized Israel for enforcing a worse system of Apartheid than that which was witnessed in South Africa recently blamed Israel again for deliberately starting the current war with Hamas.
Fighting between government forces and rebels has intensified since separatist advances opened a new front in the conflict this week
Canadian mission to NATO posted a tongue-in-cheek guide for Russian soldiers unclear about the Russia-Ukraine border.
Two sides were negotiating a deal worth $1.5 billion a month that would enable Iran to lift oil exports substantially,