Research unit was thought to be responsible for the development of sarin gas
Aziz Asbar, head of Syrian government research centre killed in bomb attack on his car
The head of a Syrian government research facility thought responsible for developing chemical weapons, has been killed in a bomb attack on his car.
Gen Aziz Asbar and his driver were killed in the countryside of the central province of Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said.
Asbar headed the Syrian Scientific Research Centre in Masyaf, Hama province, which the US claimed was developing sarin gas used by the Syrian regime. The claim was denied by the government, which said it had no chemical weapons since 2013, despite several instances of the gas being used.
Al-Watan, a pro-regime newspaper, confirmed the death, writing in its online edition: "Doctor Aziz Asbar, head of the scientific research centre in Masyaf, has been killed after an explosion targeted his car in the Hama countryside."
On July 22, Israeli air strikes targeted the research unit, which was said to have close links to Iran, according to the UK-based Observatory. Israel's military refused to comment on the reports.
The unit was said to be developing short-range surface-to-surface missiles with experts present from the Syrian regime's ally, Iran.
It is not yet known who was responsible for the attack on Asbar's car.
In April, missile strikes by the United States, Britain and France destroyed a scientific research centre in Damascus, in response to a suspected poison gas attack near the Syrian capital.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a UN watchdog, determined that the Syrian government used sarin in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in April last year that killed about 100 people and affected about 200 others.
The US imposed sanctions against 271 Syrian Scientific Research Centre employees weeks after the attack, saying the agency was responsible for "developing and producing non-conventional weapons and the means to deliver them." Asbar was not among the targeted individuals.
The US and its allies also blamed government forces for a sarin attack on the suburbs of Damascus in 2013 that killed around 1,000 people. Syria agreed to hand over its chemical weapons stockpiles and dismantle production facilities amid international outrage following that attack.
Syria's government has also been accused of using chlorine in several chemical attacks since an uprising against President Bashar Al Assad began in 2011.