Head of alleged Syrian chemical weapons factory killed in car bomb attack

A Syrian rebel group has claimed it killed the director of a government chemical weapons programme research facility in a car bombing.

Aziz Asber, director of the Syrian Scientific Research Centre, died near the city of Homs when explosives planted in his car went off, pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan reported Sunday. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said the attack took place on Saturday.

The Abu Amara Brigades rebel group claimed responsibility in a statement posted on its Telegram channel, saying it it detonated "planted explosive devices" in Mr Asber’s vehicle.  

The group is an affiliate of Islamist group Tahrir al-Sham, which is itself linked with al-Qaeda.

The government denies it possesses chemical weapons, and denies the claims that it killed hundreds of people in rebel-held areas using chemical agents.

Al-Watan blamed Israel for Mr Asber’s killing.

An Israeli official refused to comment on the report, according to Reuters.

Israel has carried out air strikes in Syria to block weapons transfers to the Lebanese militant group Hizbollah, which is supporting the Syrian government’s campaign against rebels.

Western governments claim the research centre was a covert government facility.  It had been targeted by air strikes last year, which the Syrian government said were carried out by Israel. 

The US Britain, and France struck another research facility in Damascus in April in response to a gas attack in Douma that killed more than 40 people.

It was the second major Western intervention against the regime, following several chemical weapons attack during the civil war, which has been ongoing since 2011.

Syria chemical weapons

A UN investigation held the government of Bashar al-Assad responsible for a sarin attack on the then rebel bastion Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017, which killed about 100 people.

The worst attack, also blamed on the government, was in 2013, when about 1,000 people died in a sarin attack in a rebel-held area in the suburbs of Damascus, the capital.

Assad’s forces, backed by Russia, Iran, and Hizbollah, have regained most of the rebel-held territories across the country.

The fighting in Syria has led to one of the worst modern humanitarian disasters, with more than 10 million people forced to flee their homes. 

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