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Middle East

Syria civil war: Assad 'may not have sanctioned gas attack'


Syrian government forces may have carried out a chemical weapons attack near Damascus without the personal permission of President Bashar al-Assad, Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday, citing German intelligence.

Syrian brigade and division commanders had been asking the presidential palace to allow them to use chemical weapons for the past four-and-a-half months, according to radio messages intercepted by German spies, but permission was always denied, the paper said.

This could mean President Assad may not have personally approved the attack in the Damascus suburbs on 21 August, in which more than 1,400 are estimated to have been killed, intelligence officers suggested.

Germany’s foreign intelligence agency could not be reached for comment. Bild said the radio traffic was intercepted by a German naval reconnaissance vessel, the Oker, sailing off the Syrian coast.