Dozens of Syrian military officers and Iranian engineers were killed about two months ago in an a chemical weapons accident, Jane's Magazine reported Monday, revealing new details on the incident which took place in a secret weapons facility.
According to the report by the British magazine, the explosion occurred early in the morning on July 26, in a factory in the city of Halab, as the officers were attempting to mount a chemical warhead with mustard gas on a Scud-C missile.
A fire which started in the missile's engine led to an explosion near a storage location of chemical substances. The blast spread lethal chemical agents, including mustard gas, VX gas and sarin nerve gas, which are considered extremely toxic and are banned for use according to international treaties.
Jane's Magazine reports that the explosion killed 15 Syrian officers and dozens of Iranian engineers who were in the facility. Dozens of people were injured.
The incident was reported at the time by Syria's official news agency, but the report only included information on the Syrian casualties and did not mention the Iranian representatives.
The Syrian report also claimed that the explosion was caused by a "heat wave" in the country, although the blast took place at around 4:30 am, and that the Syrian government rejected the possibility of sabotage.
According to the British magazine, the facility where the accident took place was built as part of a cooperation agreement signed between Syria
in 2005. The joint activity included technological supply and assistance from Syria to Iran.
A Western diplomatic source reported in the past that in exchange, Tehran was providing Damascus with means that would enable it to independently produce chemical weapons, including help in planning and building facilities and carrying out chemical weapons experiments in a number of locations. According to the source, the cost of the project was estimated at millions of dollars.
Syria is currently in the midst of a PR battle aimed at denying the allegations that it has nuclear ties with Iran and North Korea. On Tuesday, Syrian Expatriate Affairs Minister Bussaina Shaaban said that the allegations of nuclear cooperation between Syria and North Korea which led to the reported Israeli overflight
were "an orchestra of lies".
In an interview with the Iranian Fars news agency, the minister denied reports in Israeli and American media that suggested Pyongyang was helping Damascus build a nuclear installation in the country and said that "Syria maintains the right to respond when and where it sees fit."