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The OPCW-UN Joint Mission in Syria has confirmed that a 12th consignment of chemicals has been transported to the port of Latakia and removed from the country.
Noting this latest consignment the OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, expressed the hope that Syria will expedite the removal process. “This is the first shipment since 20 March. It is therefore important not only to follow this up with further rapid movements but also to make up for the lost time by increasing the volumes of chemicals to be removed”, said the Director General.
Dozens of seasoned militant fighters, including some midlevel planners, have traveled to Syria from Pakistan in recent months in what American intelligence and counterterrorism officials fear is an effort to lay the foundation for future strikes against Europe and the United States.
“We are concerned about the use of Syrian territory by the Al Qaeda organization to recruit individuals and develop the capability to be able not just to carry out attacks inside of Syria, but also to use Syria as a launching pad,” John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, told a House panel recently.
The extremists who concern Mr. Brennan are part of a group of Qaeda operatives in Pakistan that has been severely depleted in recent years by a decade of American drone strikes. But the fighters still bring a wide range of skills to the battlefield, such as bomb-building, small-arms tactics, logistics, religious indoctrination and planning, though they are not believed to have experience in launching attacks in the West.
Syria is an appealing base for these operatives because it offers them the relative sanctuary of extremist-held havens — away from drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan — as well as ready access to about 1,200 American and European Muslims who have gone there to fight and could be potential recruits to carry out attacks when they return home. Senior counterterrorism officials have voiced fears in recent months that these Western fighters could be radicalized by the country’s civil war.
United Nations human rights investigators have added to their list of suspected war criminals from both sides in the Syrian civil war after a new round of atrocities in recent weeks, its head said on Tuesday.
The U.N. inquiry has identified military units and security agencies as well as insurgent groups suspected of committing abuses, Paulo Pinheiro told the Human Rights Council.
Four confidential lists of suspects on both sides have been drawn up to date.
"This 'perpetrators list', as we call it, contains names of persons criminally responsible for hostage-taking, torture and executions," said Pinheiro, a Brazilian chairing the inquiry.
"It also contains names of the heads of intelligence branches and detention facilities where detainees are tortured, names of military commanders who target civilians, airports from which barrel bomb attacks are planned and executed, and armed groups involved in attacking and displacing civilians."
In its update report, the U.N. commission of inquiry on Syria said the period of January 20 to March 10 was marked by escalating hostilities between insurgent groups throughout northern and northeastern provinces as Islamist rebel strongholds came under attack.
Day after day, the Syrian civil war has ground down a cultural and political center of the Middle East, turning it into a stage for disaster and cruelty on a nearly incomprehensible scale. Families are brutalized by their government and by jihadists claiming to be their saviors as nearly half of Syrians — many of them children — have been driven from their homes.
At the start of the fourth year since Syrians rose up in a peaceful movement that turned to arms after violent repression, a snapshot of the country presents the harsh truth that Syria’s descent is only accelerating, with nothing to check it.
The government bombards neighborhoods with explosive barrels, missiles, heavy artillery and, the United States says, chemical weapons, then it sends in its allies in Hezbollah and other militias to wage street warfare. It jails and tortures peaceful activists, and uses starvation as a weapon, blockading opposition areas where trapped children shrivel and die.
The opposition is now functionally dominated by foreign-led jihadists who commit their own abuses in the name of their extremist ideology, just last week shooting a 7-year-old boy for what they claimed was apostasy. And some of those fighters, too, have targeted civilians and used siege tactics.