On Saturday, the Syrian army and its allies foiled a plan by al-Nusra Front in collaboration with Turkish intelligence, to stage a sarin gas attack in the Syrian capital during President Bashar al-Assad’s inauguration.
On Saturday, the Syrian army and its allies carried out a surprise rocket attack on a farm in the region of Drousha on the outskirts of Qatna, a town in Damascus southern countryside. The attack hit a meeting hall in which 11 al-Nusra Front leaders were present. Well-placed sources told Al-Akhbar that the men were holding their final meeting “before carrying out a sarin gas attack on the capital on the day President Bashar al-Assad was going to be sworn in.”
The sources said that surveillance of the armed groups earlier had revealed certain information, in light of which the Syrian army decided not to wait for the militants to act, but to carry out a rapid preemptive attack on the groups charged with planning and execution. This is exactly what happened on Saturday, when reconnaissance teams confirmed the presence of 11 al-Nusra Front commanders at the meeting, including the men known as Abu Hanifa; Abu Saleh; Abu Dardaa al-Souri; Said al-Tunisi; and the army defector Captain Ibrahim al-Hamwi. The Syrian air force was called in, and the building where the meeting was being held was completely leveled.
According to information obtained by Al-Akhbar, al-Nusra Front was able to obtain 16 vials of sarin gas, each with a dispersal radius of 500 meter.
According to information obtained by Al-Akhbar, al-Nusra Front was able to obtain 16 vials of sarin gas, each with a dispersal radius of 500 meters. The toxins were acquired from a private cache in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.
The sources said the broker was a high-level Turkish intelligence officer, who had helped smuggle the vials to al-Nusra Front for the planned attack. The plan, the sources added, was to distribute the vials across the Damascus countryside, including in districts such as al-Tadamun, al-Hajar al-Aswad, and the southern parts of al-Qadam. The sources also said the armed groups underwent training on launching locally made rockets at a number of targets in the capital, including civilian concentrations, the People’s Assembly, the General Intelligence headquarters, and the National Security headquarters.
A Syrian security source confirmed to Al-Akhbar that the chemical plot follows several foiled attacks that had been planned to take place in Damascus during the presidential election. These plots involved car bombs and rockets directed at the capital, though this has not been leaked to the media until now. The source added, “There has been a qualitative development in the work of the Syrian security services, especially with the use of sophisticated equipment and the trend towards automation of information,” something he said helped thwart many attacks recently.
The opposition’s history with sarin
Al-Nusra Front has a history in manufacturing and deploying the poison gas, which is designated by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.
In May 2013, the Turkish security services arrested 12 members of al-Nusra, seizing two kilograms of sarin gas they had in their possession. At the time, the media reported that this took place in the city of Adana in southern Turkey, noting that the security services seized incriminating documents and ammunition found on the suspects.
In April 2014, American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, quoting former U.S. intelligence officials, wrote that it was Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s “people” who were behind the chemical attack in August 2013 in the East Ghouta. In the same article, he mentioned that the plan was to stage the attack in Damascus or near Damascus when UN inspectors, who had arrived to the capital on August 18 to investigate previous use of sarin gas, were there. The former U.S. intelligence official quoted by Hersh said, “Our senior military officers have been told…that the sarin was supplied through Turkey…[and that] the Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it,” adding that the principal evidence for the claims about the Syrian regime’s responsibility for the attack in Ghouta had come from the Turkish “post-attack.”
Source: Al Akhbar