DEVASTATING DEFECTION: The former head of the Syrian government’s Forensics Unit in Aleppo province disappeared from his home last month in circumstances that seemed to suggest he was kidnapped by rebels. Dr. Abdultawab Shahrour re-surfaced this week with a dramatic press conference in Turkey, his new home, announcing not only his defection from the regime, but his conclusion that government forces used chemical gas while fighting for the strategic suburb of Khan al-Asl in March of this year.
Calling the attack a “cold-blooded, calculated massacre,” Shahrour said 63 people arrived at the Aleppo government hospital where he worked following the attack. 13 were dead, one died later and the rest showed symptoms of poisoning from some sort of toxic gas.
“I was surprised to find the names and affiliations of those who arrived at the hospital in a leaked government memo,” Shahrour, who said he was smuggled out of Syria last month by rebels, told the press conference. “Of the names on the list, four were from Popular Committees [usually Alawite civilians empowered and armed by the regime to act against whom they perceive as enemies of the state] and only one regime soldier. The rest were civilians.”
Khan al-Asl sits at the western entrance to Aleppo, close to one of the most fortified regime military bases and the Assad Military Academy. After months of intense fighting, the rebels captured the abandoned town in July, and continue to hold it. Video courtesy of Syrian National Coalition.