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11 Jul, 2013 10:18

MI6 warning: ‘Catastrophe’ if chemical weapons fall into Al-Qaeda hands

MI6 warning: ‘Catastrophe’ if chemical weapons fall into Al-Qaeda hands

If Syrian rebels gain access to the vast stockpile of chemical weapons, it would have ‘catastrophic consequences,’ MI6 has warned. There are concerns a regime fall may trigger the proliferation of “the deadliest nerve agent ever created.”

The head of UK spy agency MI6, Sir John Sawers, has voiced his serious concern over the escalating conflict in Syria. His words accompanied the release of an annual report by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, charged with overseeing the work of British intelligence agencies.

“There has to be a significant risk that some of the country’s chemical weapons stockpile could fall into the hands of those with links to terrorism, in Syria or elsewhere in the region. If this happens, the consequences could be catastrophic,” said the committee.

Moreover, the parliamentary committee said Syrian President Bashar Assad has “vast stockpiles” of chemical arms, including sarin, ricin, mustard gas and VX – branded as “the deadliest nerve agent ever created.” 

In this image made available by the Syrian News Agency (SANA) on March 19, 2013, medics check a woman at a hospital in the Khan al-Assal region in the northern Aleppo province, as Syria's government accused rebel forces of using chemical weapons for the first time. (AFP/SANA)

Echoing the statements of the British Prime Minister, who said last month there was evidence Al-Qaeda-linked rebels tried to acquire chemical weapons, the report classified extremist elements in Syria as "the most worrying emerging terrorist threat" to the UK and its allies.” 

It noted the movement of “radicalized individuals” from the UK and other countries in the EU towards the conflict zone.

"They are likely to acquire expertise and experience which could significantly increase the threat posed when they return home.”

The UK has also alleged that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on its own population, something that the international community has been unable to agree on. France, UK and the US all claim to have found evidence of regime forces using chemical weapons, but Russia and China say they are unsubstantiated.

As yet the UN commission inquiry currently examining the situation in Syria has not found concrete evidence of any chemical weapons being used in the conflict.

Fighters of the jihadist group Al-Nusra Front (AFP Photo/Guillaume Briquet)

Obama blocked by Congress

US President Barack Obama had previously authorized military aid to the rebels in Syria, maintaining the Assad regime had crossed a “red line” and used chemical weapons against citizens. However, members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have reportedly moved against the initiative, implementing restrictions on the funding of rebel groups in Syria.

A source that spoke with the publication The Hill cited fears of exacerbating terrorism in Syria as the driving force behind the move.

Lawmakers in the US are particular worried about weapons falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda-affiliated group Al-Nusra Front.

The conflict in Syria has been raging for over two years now and shows no signs of abating. The UN has estimated that around 90,000 people have been killed in the violence that has engulfed the country.