Jihadist site claims FSA has obtained chemical weapons equipment
A July 27 posting on a Turkish jihadist website claims in a short statement and video that the Free Syrian Army has obtained chemical weapons equipment from a military base in Aleppo that belonged to President Bashir al Assad's army.
The video, which is titled, "Chemical Weapons Equipment belonging to Assad Forces," shows images of rebels holding gas masks and what they claim are biological and chemical weapons equipment that they found at a military base following clashes in Aleppo. A written statement above the video claims that Abu Ali, a Free Syrian Army commander, said Assad's military had left the area in a rush and had not had time to take the equipment with them.
Though it is not possible to confirm its accuracy, the video appears authentic. The background image would suggest that the video was at least shot in Syria. The image is of a common Syrian type, showing portraits of three Assad men: Hafez al-Assad in the middle, and his sons, Bashar al Assad to the right, and Bassel al Assad (a former Republican Guards commander who died in 1994) to the left. They are accompanied by the Syrian flag.
The posting came four days after the regime issued an unprecedented threat to use chemical and biological weapons against any "foreign aggression," after having characterized the rebels as "foreign terrorists."
Reports also confirm that rebel forces have taken control of a military base in Aleppo. From CNN:
[Syrian rebels captured tanks that] came from the rebel seizure of an army outpost outside Aleppo, the scene of heavy fighting for more than a week. Rebel troops overran the outpost early Monday and were hauling out tank shells and crates of ammunition by afternoon.
This raises the question of whether Syria is losing control of its weapons stockpiles amid the chaos there. Furthermore, increasing numbers of videos are popping up showing jihadist groups loyal or sympathetic to al Qaeda, indicating al Qaeda involvement within the Syrian resistance. The prospect of al Qaeda-related groups obtaining chemical and biological weapons is considered one of the greatest threats that the world faces today. [For a list of jihadist groups emerging in Syria, see LWJ report, Army of Islam fighter from Gaza killed in Syria.]