By Stefanos Evripidou
THE NUMBER of double cabin trucks sold to foreigners this year has tripled compared to the same period last year, fuelling rumours that the Cypriot-registered cars have ended up on the frontline of the Syrian civil war.
According to local daily Politis, the increase in the purchase of double cabin trucks is mainly as a result of Arab-speakers purchasing the vehicles, driving them to the occupied north and from there transporting them to Syria to be used by rebels in the fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
The paper reported that around 170 transfers of ownership of double cabin trucks to foreigners were registered from January to June in 2012. For the same period this year, the number of transfers reached over 500.
Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, head of the Road Transport Department Soteris Kolettas confirmed that the number of transfers had indeed tripled this year, though he could not confirm the exact figures.
Politis cited sources saying the sudden increase in the change of car ownership could be explained by Cyprus-based Arabs buying cars from Cypriots on behalf of Syrian rebels, mainly double cabin trucks but also jeeps.
The cars are then driven from the government-controlled areas to the occupied north via the checkpoints, and loaded on to vessels either at Kyrenia or Famagusta ports and taken either straight to Syria or on to Turkey, and from there driven to the Syrian border.
While the police said they did not register any major increase in cars crossing north and not returning, a source at a main checkpoint told the Cyprus Mail that they had observed an increasing number of double cabins crossing north but not returning to the government-controlled areas.
However, the police were not able to provide any statistics on the matter.
One EU diplomat could not rule out that this was happening but questioned why the rebels would go to the bother of coming to Cyprus for vehicles when they could make their purchases instead in neighbouring countries. They suggested the pattern witnessed could be the work of organised crime.