September 27, 2007

Report: Dozens dead in Syrian chemical weapons experiment

Dozens of Syrian military officers and Iranian engineers were killed about two months ago in an a chemical weapons accident, Jane's Magazine reported Monday, revealing new details on the incident which took place in a secret weapons facility. According to the report by the British magazine, the explosion occurred early in the morning on July 26, in a factory in the city of Halab, as the officers were attempting to mount a chemical warhead with mustard gas on a Scud-C missile.

A fire which started in the missile's engine led to an explosion near a storage location of chemical substances. The blast spread lethal chemical agents, including mustard gas, VX gas and sarin nerve gas, which are considered extremely toxic and are banned for use according to international treaties. Jane's Magazine reports that the explosion killed 15 Syrian officers and dozens of Iranian engineers who were in the facility. Dozens of people were injured. The incident was reported at the time by Syria's official news agency, but the report only included information on the Syrian casualties and did not mention the Iranian representatives.

The Syrian report also claimed that the explosion was caused by a "heat wave" in the country, although the blast took place at around 4:30 am, and that the Syrian government rejected the possibility of sabotage.

According to the British magazine, the facility where the accident took place was built as part of a cooperation agreement signed between Syria and Iran in 2005. The joint activity included technological supply and assistance from Syria to Iran.