A prominent member of the Free Syrian Army claims the rebels have all the components to produce chemical weapons and have the know-how to put them together and use if necessary.
“If we ever use them, we will only hit the regime's bases and centers,” the political adviser of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Bassam Al-Dada, was quoted by Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency.
The adviser stressed that the Syrian opposition would only use chemical weapons if the ruling regime did so first.
If President Bashar Assad threatens Syrian opposition fighters with chemical weapons, Al-Dada noted, he should know that the opposition “also possess them.”
Al-Dada stated that their expertise came from army officers with technical knowledge who had defected from the government side. However, he did not mention anyone in particular.
The media have quickly made links between the announcement and Major-General Adnan Sillu, who defected from the regime in July 2012 and who prior to that led the army’s chemical weapons training program.
In June 2012, Adnan Sillu was quoted by Al Arabiya that “probably anyone from the Free Syrian Army or any Islamic extremist group could take them over”. He claimed that the stores of mustard gas and nerve agents — such as in Homs, east of Aleppo and east of Damascus – were not properly secured.
Earlier in December, he claimed that the Syrian regime's arsenal of chemical weapons almost matches Israel’s.
The EU, US and allied nations have repeatedly expressed their concern that the main threat from Syria’s chemical weapons is that they could fall into the hands of terrorists who have infiltrated the ranks of the Syrian rebels.
The concern increased significantly last month after Syria’s United Nations ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, warned that the Syrian opposition might use chemical weapons against innocent civilians after they gained control of “a toxic chlorine factory” east of Aleppo, and try to blame President Assad’s regime.
Damascus officials have stressed on numerous occasions that Syria would not use chemical weapons under any circumstances, except against a foreign attack.
Global concern over possible possession of chemical weapons by Syrian rebels first appeared in December 2011, when one of the Assad’s representatives warned the world community that some of the extremist rebel groups possessed chemical weapons.
Fear that Syria could also use chemical weapons against its neighbors was cited by Turkey as one of the reasons why it requested six Patriot missiles from NATO to be stationed on its border with Syria. The alliance approved the deployment.