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DIY

Syrian rebels’ homemade weapons are getting bigger

By Caitlin Hu

Just days after the four-year anniversary of Syria’s bloody civil war, new photos of Syrian rebels’ weapons suggest increasingly ambitious innovation in their DIY arms manufacturing. Although anti-government groups like the Free Syrian Army have repeatedly called for—and sometimes received—arms donations from foreign governments, homemade weapons cobbled together from farming and construction equipment continue to play an important part in the conflict. They have been deployed on all sides, from Syrian government forces’ nail-filled “barrel bombs” to the Islamic State’s improvised explosive devices to rebel Islamist coalition Shamiyya Front’s gas-canister-loaded cannon, the Borkan (“Volcano”).

Below, the evolution of weapons made by Syrian rebels throughout the conflict.

Fall 2012:

Reuters/Asmaa Waguih
Oct. 15, 2012: Members of the free Syrian Army use a catapult to launch a homemade bomb during clashes with pro-government soldiers in the city of Aleppo.
Reuters/Zain Karam
Oct. 20, 2012: Free Syrian Army fighters launch a homemade bomb using a catapult during clashes in Aleppo

Spring/summer 2013:

Reuters/Zain Karam
Jan 29, 2013: Free Syrian Army fighters use a homemade catapult in old Aleppo
Reuters/Goran Tomasevic
Feb. 9, 2013: Fighters from the Free Syrian Army’s Tahrir al Sham brigade use a shotgun to fire an improvised grenade at Syrian Army soldiers in the Arabeen neigbourhood of Damascus.
Reuters/Khalil Ashawi
Jun. 16, 2013: A member of the Free Syrian Army writes the name of a fellow fighter on a homemade rocket in Deir al-Zor
Reuters/Muzaffar Salman
July 6, 2013: A Free Syrian Army fighter displays homemade bombs made from ornamental balls

Fall 2013:

Reuters/Hamid Khatib
Sept. 5, 2013: A Free Syrian Army fighter spray paints on improvised mortar shells at a weapon factory in Aleppo
Reuters/Hamid Khatib
Sept. 4, 2013: A Free Syrian Army fighter spray paints an improvised mortar shell as his fellow fighter watches him, in Aleppo
Reuters/Nour Fourat
Oct. 14, 2013: Free Syrian Army fighters prepare to fire rockets towards forces loyal to Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad in Raqqa

Spring 2014:

Feb. 25, 2014: A Free Syrian Army fighter runs to take cover after launching a mortar

Fall 2014:

Reuters/Khalil Ashawi
Sept. 9, 2014: Rebel fighters make improvised mortar shells inside a weapons factory in the southern countryside of Idlib
Reuters/Sultan Kitaz
Dec 10, 2014: A locally-made shell is launched by rebel fighters towards forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad at the frontline in al-Breij district of Aleppo

Spring 2015:

Reuters/Abdalrhman Ismail
Mar. 5, 2015: Men fill gas canisters with explosives for use with a cannon named “Borkan” (Volcano) inside a weapon factory in Aleppo countryside
Reuters/Mohamad Bayoush
Mar. 18, 2015: Rebel fighters from Suqour al-Sham Brigade prepare a locally-made shell before launching it towards forces loyal to Syria’s president Bashar Al-Assad in Idlib countryside
Reuters/Abdalrhman Ismail
Mar. 5, 2015: The “Borkan” is made out of four tubes attached to a loader, can fire four shells at a time, and have a range of three kilometres (1.86 miles).
Reuters/Abdalrhman Ismail
Mar. 7, 2015: Al-Shamiyah Front fighters inspect a new locally-made cannon named “Borkan” (Volcano) as it was being launched towards forces loyal to Syria’s president Bashar Al-Assad located in Aleppo artillery school