The National reports: United Nations weapons inspectors will today examine the site of a chemical weapons attack in Damascus that killed hundreds, as the first signs of finger-pointing inside the Assad regime began to emerge.
The Syrian government agreed yesterday to cease hostilities in the area while the team goes in and the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said inspectors were “preparing to conduct on-site fact-finding activities” on the outskirts of the capital.
The attack on Wednesday has galvanised international calls for action against the government of President Bashar Al Assad. Rebels say as many as 1,300 people were killed. One aid agency says thousands were affected and 355 died.
Amid universal acceptance that a chemical nerve agent has been used but disagreement over who used it, there were indications from Damascus that some of the army officers involved had tried to distance themselves from what happened, and insisted they were not told the rockets they were firing were loaded with toxins.
“We have heard from people close to the regime that the chemical missiles were handed out a few hours before the attacks,” said a source from a well-connected family, who has contacts with both the opposition and regime loyalists.
“They didn’t come from the ministry of defence but from air force intelligence, under orders from Hafez Maklouf . The army officers are saying they did not know there were chemical weapons. Even some of the people transporting them are saying they had no idea what was in the rockets – they thought they were conventional explosives.”
Hafez Maklouf, Mr Al Assad’s cousin, commands Syria’s air force intelligence, the most feared of all its secret police branches. [Continue reading…]