Ex-captives reveal militants’ involvement in August 21 Syria chemical raid

Press TV — Sept 10, 2013

Italian journalist Domenico Quirico, after landing in Rome's Ciampino military airport, September 9, 2013, following freedom from captivity at the hands of the militants in Syria. Click to enlarge

An Italian journalist and a Belgian researcher, who had been held hostage by the militants in Syria but were recently freed, say they overheard their captors talking about involvement in a deadly chemical attack last month.

Italian journalist Domenico Quirico and Belgian national Pierre Piccinin said they had heard their captors talking about the involvement of militants in the chemical attack that took place in Syria on August 21, the same attack that the US has blamed on the Syrian government and has planned to attack Syria as an act of “punishment” for.

The two landed in Rome on September 9 after five months of captivity.

“It is a moral duty to say this. The government of Bashar al-Assad did not use sarin gas or other types of gas in the outskirts of Damascus,” Piccinin said during an interview with the Belgian RTL radio station.

Piccinin said that while being captive, the two, who were secluded from the outside world, overheard a Skype conversation in English involving three people.

He added that the unknown militants involved in the conversation were saying that the chemical attack “in two suburbs of Damascus was carried out by rebels as a provocation to force the West to intervene militarily.”

Belgian national Pierre Piccinin after landing in a military airport in Rome on September 9, 2013, following freedom from captivity at the hands of the militants in Syria. Click to enlarge

The men have also criticized recent US threats of war against Syria, which have been blatantly issued against the Middle Eastern country over the accusation that the Syrian government was behind the August 21 attack.

Quirico said that he and Piccinin were beaten on a daily basis and had even suffered two mock executions.

The Italian journalist entered Syria from Lebanon on April 6 and was abducted three days later while travelling to the city of Homs.

The recent war rhetoric against Syria first gained momentum on August 21, when the militants operating inside the Middle Eastern country and the country’s foreign-backed opposition claimed that over a thousand people had been killed in a government chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus.

The Syrian government categorically rejected the accusation.

Nevertheless, a number of Western countries, with the US being at the forefront, quickly started campaigning for war.

On August 31, US President Barack Obama said he would seek Congress authorization before the possible strikes on Syria.

However, reports indicate a majority of Congress members are either against the planned strikes on Syria or are yet undecided. The Senate has meanwhile postponed a vote on the US administration-proposed resolution to attack Syria.

The mood in the Congress seems to mirror that of the general American public, who, polls show, have become even more pessimistic about US war plans following the revelation by the US administration on Sunday, September 8, that it did not have “irrefutable, beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence” against Damascus. The White House has all along the way been insisting that it had “evidence” strong enough to implicate the Syrian government in the August 21 attack – a claim it continues to assert – while refusing repeated calls to release it publicly.

The UN, Iran, Russia, and China have been voicing strong opposition to the US plan for war.

SZH/HN/HJL

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