June 05, 2013 11:06
A dozen North Korean military officers are helping Syrian government forces as military advisors, unconfirmed reports said Tuesday.
That would put North Korea on the side of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad alongside Iran, Russia and Lebanon's Hezbollah in a civil war that ignited amid the "Arab Spring" in 2011.
Rami Abdul Rahman of a group called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday, "The exact number of the officers is not known, but there are definitely 11 to 15 North Korean officers, most of whom speak Arabic."
He added that the officers were "deployed in a number of areas, including defense factories southeast of Aleppo and at regular forces' stations in the city."
The activist group says it compiles reports on the civil war through an information network of about 230 sources scattered around Syria. An estimated 80,000 people have been killed during the civil war.
Fierce battles have rocked the strategically important city of Aleppo since the early days of the war. It was at one point seized by rebels but is now under the control of government forces.
Rahman said the North Korean officers "do not participate in field battles, but provide logistical support and help with plans for military operations." He added they also "supervise the artillery bombardment by the regular army," according to the daily.
The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Monday speculated that North Korea is supporting Syrian government forces based on an anti-Western alliance with Iran and Syria -- the famous "axis of evil" of former U.S. president George W. Bush. They are said to have cooperated in the military sector, including chemical and conventional weapons and nuclear development.
A Syrian nuclear facility which was destroyed by Israeli fighters in 2007 was allegedly built with North Korean help.
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