Raid leaves chem­i­cal sites ‘in­tact’

The Southland Times - - WORLD -

MID­DLE EAST: West­ern air strikes have done lit­tle to de­grade Bashar al-As­sad’s chem­i­cal arse­nal and his regime still has the ca­pa­bil­ity to in­flict ma­jor dam­age, Syria’s for­mer chem­i­cal weapons chief has said.

Bri­gadier-Gen­eral Za­her al­Sakat, who served as head of chem­i­cal war­fare in the pow­er­ful 5th Di­vi­sion of the mil­i­tary un­til he de­fected in 2013, said the most strate­gic sites were not hit in Satur­day’s strikes.

In the United States, the Pen­tagon had said that it be­lieved the raids ‘‘at­tacked the heart of the Syr­ian chem­i­cal weapons pro­gramme’’, sig­nif­i­cantly ham­per­ing the gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to use such weapons again.

But the ex­tent of the dam­age was ques­tioned yes­ter­day by Sakat, as well as other de­fec­tors from Syria’s se­cre­tive chem­i­cal weapons pro­gramme, and chem­i­cal ex­perts.

‘‘Taq­sis de­pot [in the cen­tral prov­ince of Homs] is what we wanted to be hit,’’ Sakat said.

‘‘As long as it’s still func­tion­ing then they’ll still have chem­i­cal weapons and the abil­ity to pro­duce more.’’

The 54-year-old left the army and joined the op­po­si­tion Free Syr­ian Army (FSA) af­ter he was or­dered to carry out a num­ber of chem­i­cal at­tacks on civil­ians.

The tar­gets of the Amer­i­can, Bri­tish and French strikes in­cluded Barzeh Sci­en­tific Re­search Cen­tre in the greater Da­m­as­cus area, as well as a chem­i­cal weapons stor­age fa­cil­ity near the city of Homs. Satel­lite im­agery re­leased yes­ter­day showed sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to Barzeh.

It is one of the three main chem­i­cal re­search cen­tres, along­side Dum­mar and Masyaf, the lat­ter of which is thought to spe­cialise in the in­te­gra­tion of chem­i­cal pay­loads on to mis­siles.

‘‘There’s no ac­tual pro­duc­tion in Barzeh and they would have moved ev­ery­thing be­fore the strikes any­way,’’ Sakat said.

– Tele­graph Group

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