Detained al-Nusra members say chemicals not for making sarin gas

September 13, 2013, Friday/ 17:08:00

Al-Nusra members detained in Adana with chemical materials in May have admitted that they obtained the chemicals from Turkey but claimed they did not know sarin gas could be produced from them, according to the Taraf daily.

Eleven members of Syria's militant al-Nusra group were detained in Adana in May after police found chemical materials that can be used to make sarin gas, which was reportedly going to be used in a bomb attack, during a search of the suspects' homes. Two kilograms of sarin gas, which is usually used for making bombs and was banned by the UN in 1991, had been found in the homes of the suspects detained in the southern cities of Adana and Mersin. Reports claimed that the members of al-Nusra had been planning a bomb attack in Adana but that the attack was averted when the police caught the suspects. Along with the sarin gas, the police seized a number of handguns, grenades, bullets and documents during their search.

The indictment states that, according to the suspects, the reasons for obtaining the chemicals was to “prevent Syrian regime war planes from attacking cities with the help of white smoke, polishing rockets and tanks and camouflaging sharpshooters while they change their positions.” The indictment also stated that the suspects' claims of not being aware that they could make sarin gas with the materials they obtained is not true and that their statements were inconsistent and incoherent.

Murat Bilhan, vice chairman of the Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies (TASAM), told Today's Zaman that the capture of the militants in Turkey is a plan hatched by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who wants to create trouble for his enemies, particularly Turkey.

“Because Assad feels cornered, he wants to harm his enemies and assert his authority. By giving chemicals to opposition groups, he is showing the whole world that he is not using chemical weapons but the opposition. With Turkey's affiliation with the Syrian opposition known, Assad wants to put the blame of using chemical weapons on Turkey,” Bilhan said, stressing the importance of Turkey clarifying its firm stance on the use of weapons of mass destruction again.

During the incident, the prosecutor stated that the al-Nusra Front, known as the Syrian al-Qaeda, was attempting to conduct sensationalist acts. Cooperating with another Syrian opposition group, the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham, the militants were trying to obtain large amounts of sarin gas and chemical materials that are used to make weapons.

Listing out the characteristics of the materials in detail, the indictment also stressed the ties between al-Qaeda and the organizations in Syria. According to the indictment, chemical materials are apparently used by members of Ahrar al-Sham and al-Nusra and there is a link between al-Qaida and chemical weapons.

On May 11, one car bomb exploded outside the town hall while another went off outside a post office in Hatay's Reyhanlı district, a main hub for Syrian refugees and opposition activity. Fifty-two people were killed and as many as 100 injured in the bombings. Turkey blamed the Syrian regime for the attacks but Damascus has denied any role in the bombings.

Twelve suspects were arrested in connection with the car bombings. In the aftermath of the attack, claims were raised that the police force and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) did not fulfill their responsibilities to prevent the bombings from taking place.

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