After Russian-backed Assad regime forces liberated the eastern Syrian town of Mayadeen from the Daesh terrorist group, a huge weapons stockpile from NATO countries, including new arrivals from Belgium, were seized from the fleeing militants.
According to a report by Belgian daily De Morgen, Brig. General Suheil al-Hassan, commander of the elite Tiger Forces, said the majority of weapons were from NATO countries, and particularly noteworthy were the "new" weapons from Belgium.
It would take at least six days for the entire equipment of the escaped Daesh terrorists to be transported out of the town, al-Hassan said.
Similar reports by Russia Today and pro-Assad Al-Masdar news website also pointed out that the majority of weapons seized in Mayadeen were made in the U.S., Britain, Belgium and other NATO countries.
The town, dubbed as Daesh's capital in Deir el-Zour province, was taken from Daesh militants mid-October amid the accelerating collapse of the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria. Facing defeat on multiple fronts, militants did not put up a significant resistance in Mayadeen like they had in Raqqa, Mosul or al-Bab, and fled the town to the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, leaving behind thousands of weapons, ammunition and explosives.
A three-year-long Daesh siege on regime-held parts of Deir el-Zour, the largest city in eastern Syria located 45 kilometers northwest of Mayadeen, was also lifted in early September by Tiger Forces. The unit was the same size as the battalions that have been deployed in almost every regime offensive in the Syrian Civil War, which carry with them a notorious record of human rights violations.
In addition to weapons and ammunition consisting of assault rifles, machine guns, mortars, howitzers and drones, many explosive-laden vehicles, tanks, armored personnel carriers and other armored vehicles were also seized in Mayadeen.
The number of militants and weapons in the town had recently increased as the town became a major point of retreat for Daesh militants fleeing from clashes in their shrinking territory.
Regime commanders said the weapons found in Mayadeen are enough to equip a division of 10,000 to 20,000 men, and they continue to discover new weapon caches throughout the town.
Daesh seized the bulk of its weapons during its 2014 summer blitz in Iraq, which saw entire Iraqi divisions deserting their posts and weapons, and the fall of the country's largest cities including Samarra, Mosul and Tikrit.
Most of the weapons and vehicles captured in Iraq were from the U.S. and other NATO allies as the country's armed forces were restructured after the U.S. invasion in 2003. However, a significant weapons stockpile from Russia and former Eastern Bloc countries, mostly acquired in the Baath era, was also seized by the terrorist group.
The terrorist group then turned west in Syria, expanding its territory and again acquiring an important amount of weapons from victories against Russia-backed Assad regime forces and opposition groups backed by the U.S. and its allies in the region, including Turkey.
However, the regime commanders' claim of discovering new weapons from Belgium also raises suspicions on how the terrorist group managed to acquire these resources despite retreating from every front.
Even with an abundance of weapons and fighters in the region, which have repeatedly proven ineffective, truckloads of weapons continue to pour into the region in the pretext of fighting terrorism.
This has been among the main causes of a series of diplomatic rows between two NATO allies, Turkey and the U.S., as the latter provides arms and ammunition to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria in the fight against Daesh. While the U.S. describes the SDF as an effective partner on the ground in Syria, it is in fact dominated by the People's Protection Units (YPG), which is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist group. The militant group is supplied by the U.S. though it makes no efforts to hide its organic and ideological links to the PKK, which is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., in addition to NATO and the EU.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly stated that the U.S. supplied the SDF with over 3,500 truckloads of arms despite Turkey's objections and offered to conduct joint operations against terrorist groups.
Although the U.S. assures Turkey that it keeps track of its weapons to be returned once fighting in Syria ends, the fate of weapons in similar deliveries increases worries in Ankara.