Syrian rebels using homemade arms
As the midsummer sun blazed over this partially deserted Syrian city one recent afternoon, two young men appeared in a pickup truck in an alley near several auto repair workshops.
Protruding from the truck's bed was a steel pipe about one-metre long and seven centimetres wide, resting on a simple frame.
The pipe was not for plumbing.
It was a locally made mortar that had been used in July in the battle for Azaz, a city in the north where antigovernment fighters drove away the army of Syrian president Bashar Assad.
"Now we have three or four of these, but we need to make more," said Mustafa, one of the men who had assembled the weapons in small machine shops where since last year a key aspect of the revolution against Syria's government has been waged by men who do not themselves often carry guns.
Mustafa's handiwork, which also includes the manufacture of homemade mortar rounds ("We can make, every day, 25 shells," he said), is part of a grass-roots effort to create the fighters' diverse and idiosyncratic arsenal.
That is an essential component of the rebels' survival and their recent successes against the professionally trained military with which they are locked in a struggle for Syria's future.
Working together and at the urging of anti-government fighters, local businesses and tradesmen have organized into a network engaged in making weapons, in part by delegating tasks among the various trades.
Some shops concoct explosives and propellants, a job that one organiser, Ahmed Turki, said had best been accomplished by a local painter with experience mixing chemicals.
Others, who have electricians' skills, wire together the circuits for makeshift bombs.
Machinists and metallurgists assemble rockets and mortars, as well as the bodies for mortar and artillery shells or the large cylinders often used to hold the charges in roadside or truck bombs. (These men also manufacture truck mounts for machine guns captured from government forces; one novel design included using a disc brake from a motorcycle to arrest the movement of the weapon as its operator adjusts the gun's elevation.)
Still others remove the propellant from captured tank and artillery rounds, which is then repurposed in the rebels' arms.
As the forces opposed to Dr Assad have appealed with little success to the West for weapons and foreign air support, the rebels have pursued their own project, developing the dark arts of weapon-making with surprising speed.
In many ways, the weapons gathered by the uprising here resemble those seen in the insurgencies fought against Western forces by Iraqis, or against Israel by Palestinians.