The Assad regime continues to manufacture chemical weapons in violation of a 2013 deal to eliminate them, according to a Western intelligence agency.
A document obtained by the BBC said that chemical and biological munitions are still being produced at three main sites near Damascus and Hama, adding that both Iran and Russia, Assad’s main allies, are aware.
The intelligence document noted that the Assad regime is still manufacturing chemical weapons at three sites – Masyaf, in Hama province, and at the districts of Dummar and Barzah outside Damascus. All three are branches of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), a government agency, it added.
Despite monitoring of the sites by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the document said that manufacturing and maintenance continue in closed sections.
It added that the Masyaf and Barzah facilities both specialize in installing chemical weapons on long-range missiles and artillery.
The OPCW mentioned Barzah and Dummar – also known as Jamraya – in its latest official progress update on its work to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program.
The watchdog says inspectors visited them between 26 February and 5 March and that it is still awaiting laboratory analysis of the samples that were taken.
The US imposed economic sanctions on 271 SSRC employees three weeks after the April sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun, accusing the agency of focusing on the development of non-conventional weapons and the means to deliver them.
Nearly 100 people were killed in Khan Sheikhoun and hundreds more injured, prompting the US to launch strikes against the Shayrat airbase in eastern Homs province from where the attack originated. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)