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Report: Cuban Military Officials Spotted in Syria, Possibly Aiding Assad

Report: Cuban Military Officials Spotted in Syria, Possibly Aiding Assad
A woman walks past a poster of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. (Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 14 October 2015 05:37 PM

A top Cuban military official was recently seen in Syria, raising fears that Havana is advising President Bashar al-Assad's forces and possibly readying to operate tanks made in Russia to help in the battle against U.S.-backed rebel forces, according to news reports Wednesday.

Gen. Leopoldo Cintra Frias, head of Cuba's Armed Forces, visited Damascus recently with a group of military officials, Jaime Suchlicki, executive director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, told FoxNews.com.

"It doesn't surprise me," Suchlicki said. He noted Russia's history of providing military equipment to Cuba and its involvement in Soviet-led operations in Africa the 1970s.

"They have a very close relationship," Suchlicki told Fox. "The Russians have been training the Cubans for years and supplying them with all sorts of military equipment."

A U.S. official told Fox on Wednesday that Cuban paramilitary and special forces operations were in Syria, citing intelligence reports.

The official, who asked not to be named, said Cuban troops may have been training in Russia and may have arrived in Syria on Russian planes, Fox reports.

Suchlicki said that an Arab military officer at the Damascus airport apparently saw two Russian planes arrive carrying Cuban military personnel.

When the officer queried the Cubans, they told him they were there to assist Assad because they are experts at operating Russian tanks, he told Fox.

The United States normalized relations with Cuba this year, reopening the Embassy in Havana in July. President Barack Obama removed Havana from its list of state-sponsored terrorists earlier this year.

The countries had not held diplomatic relations since 1961.

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A top Cuban military official was recently seen in Syria, raising fears that Havana is advising President Bashar al-Assad's forces and possibly readying to operate tanks made in Russia to help in the battle against U.S.-backed rebel forces, according to news reports Wednesday.
cuban, military, official, syria, report
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2015-37-14
Wednesday, 14 October 2015 05:37 PM
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