Syria chemical attack pilot, General Mohammed Hasouri, said to have been killed by car bomb

The Times reports: The pilot who is believed to have dropped sarin gas on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, killing at least 87 people, was General Mohammed Hasouri, an experienced commander who had carried out a previous chemical attack, The Times can reveal.

General Hasouri, a squadron commander from President Assad’s Alawite sect, was congratulated by General Ali Abdullah Ayoub, chief of general staff of the Syrian army, for “destroying al-Qaeda’s weapons facilities in Khan Sheikhoun” in the attack last Tuesday. A picture of the two was tweeted by Fares Shehabi, the MP for Aleppo and a high-profile member of Assad’s regime.

Syria and Russia insist that the deaths in Khan Sheikhoun from sarin gas exposure were caused by a conventional bomb hitting a rebel warehouse containing chemical weapons. That has been debunked by experts who say that any sarin stocks would be destroyed rather than released if such a strike took place. Witnesses at the site have noted that the crater from the missile is in the middle of a road, and that a warehouse shows no signs of having been used to store chemical weapons.

In his tweet Mr Shehabi names the pilot as General Haytham Hasouri, but Ahmad Rahal, a former Syrian air force brigadier, told The Times it was likely that he had been given a false first name in an attempt to conceal his identity.

He confirmed that the man in the picture was Mohammed Hasouri, the chief of staff of air force brigade 50. He is an Alawite, part of the Shia Muslim sect whose members hold most of the highest ranks in Assad’s regime.

His hometown, Talkalakh, is close to the Lebanese border where there was fierce fighting between rebels and the regime at the start of the conflict.

Observers who monitor the communications of the regime’s air force to warn people about bombings, confirmed to The Times that the Khan Sheikhoun attack was carried out by a pilot called Mohammed Hasouri. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: Although officials acknowledged that they have seen no evidence directly linking Russia to the attacks, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that Russia should be pressed to answer what it knew ahead of the chemical attack since it has positioned warplanes and air defense systems with associated troops in Syria since 2015.

“I think what we should do is ask Russia, how could it be, if you have advisers at that airfield, that you didn’t know that the Syrian air force was preparing and executing a mass murder attack with chemical weapons?” McMaster said on Fox News. [Continue reading…]

As a high-ranking Syrian air force officer, Hasouri would surely be in close communication with the Russians present at his airfield. It would appear that the risk he might reveal the content of those communications has now been eliminated.

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