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Published: Monday, 2/25/2013

TOLL OF SYRIA’S CIVIL WAR MOUNTS

Rebels proclaim capture of suspected nuclear site

Opposition forces find at least 1 Scud missile

REUTERS
Abu Ibrahim, 73, writes his granddaughter’s name on her grave in Syria, a victim of an airstrike. The U.N. estimates 70,000 people have been killed in the civil war. Abu Ibrahim, 73, writes his granddaughter’s name on her grave in Syria, a victim of an airstrike. The U.N. estimates 70,000 people have been killed in the civil war.
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AMMAN, Jordan — Syrian rebels have captured the site of a suspected nuclear reactor near the Euphrates River that Israeli warplanes destroyed six years ago, opposition sources in eastern Syria said on Sunday.

The Al-Kubar site became a focus of international attention when Israel raided it in 2007. The United States said the complex was a North Korean-designed nuclear reactor geared to making weapons-grade plutonium.

Omar Abu Laila, a spokesman for the Eastern Joint Command of the Free Syrian Army, said the only building rebels found at the site was a hangar that had at least one Scud missile.

“It appears that the site was turned into a Scud launch base. Whatever structures it had have been buried,” he said, adding that three army helicopters airlifted the last loyalist troops before opposition fighters overran the area.

The Syrian military, which razed the site after the Israeli raid, said the complex was a regular military facility but refused to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency unrestrained access after the agency said the complex could have been a nuclear site.

The U.N. inquiry appears to have died down since the national revolt against President Bashar Assad broke out in 2011, with the armed opposition capturing more military sites in rural areas and on the edges of cities.

U.N. inspectors tried to access the site in June, 2008, but Syrian authorities refused to give them access.

Mr. Abu Laila said Scuds appear to have been fired from Kubar at rebel-held areas in the province of Homs to the west.

The complex, he said, had command and control links with loyalist troops in Deir el-Zour, where Assad’s forces have been on the retreat and are based mainly in and around the airport in the south of the city.



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