British and American leaders have claimed to have evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime was behind a deadly chemical weapons attack near Damascus several days ago. Now, the British Sunday Express has revealed that among that evidence is a series of radio messages in which Syrian commanders threaten a captain with death if he does not carry out an order to fire chemical weapons.
The messages were picked up by British officers. Anonymous Royal Air force (RAF) and Ministry of Defense sources who spoke to the Express said the messages were initially treated “with caution” due to fears they could have been planted by rebels.
The intercepted radio messages begin with a regional commander demanding that the captain of a Syrian Army artillery battery fire chemical shells.
When the officer protests, he is told “in direct terms” that if he does not fire the weapons, he will be killed.
Chemical weapons were fired just minutes later. American leaders say that at least 1,429 civilians were killed in the attack, among them 400 children.
United States Secretary of State John Kerry has claimed other evidence for Assad’s involvement in the attack, including preparations made by Syrian troops in the days before.
American and British leaders have strongly argued in favor of international intervention in the wake of the deadly chemical attack. However, opposition from the UN and from within to immediate action has led U.S. President Barack Obama to delay a decision on intervention for the time being.