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Elite Syrian unit scattering chemical weapons: Report

Last Updated: Friday, September 13, 2013 - 16:39

Washington: A secretive Syrian military unit has been moving stocks of chemical weapons to as many as 50 sites to make it harder for the US to track them, a media report said on Friday.

Quoting American and Middle Eastern officials, the paper said `Unit 450`, a branch of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre that manages the regime`s overall chemicals weapons programme, has been moving the stocks around for months.

The movements of chemical weapons by Syria`s elite Unit 450 could complicate any US bombing campaign in Syria over its alleged chemical attacks and also raises questions about implementation of a Russian proposal that calls for Bashar al-Assad`s regime to surrender control of its stockpile, The Wall Street General said.

The unit is in charge of mixing and deploying chemical munitions, and it provides security at chemical sites, according to US and European intelligence agencies.

It is composed of officers from Assad`s Alawite sect.

US military officials have looked into the possibility of gaining influence over members of Unit 450 through inducements or threats, the paper said.

Although the option remains on the table, government experts say the unit is so close knit that they doubt any member could break ranks without being exposed and killed.

US and Israeli intelligence agencies still believe they know where most of the Syrian regime`s chemical weapons are located, but with less confidence than six months ago, US officials said.

The report came as Secretary of State John Kerry met yesterday in Geneva with his Russian counterpart to discuss a road map for ending the weapons programme.

The US alleges a chemical-weapons attack by the Syrian government on August 21 killed more than 1,400 people, including at least 400 children.

The US estimates the regime has 1,000 metric tons of chemical and biological agents.


First Published: Friday, September 13, 2013 - 16:39

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