BRITISH intelligence chiefs have intercepted radio messages in which senior Syrian military chiefs are heard ordering the use of chemical weapons.
In one heated exchange, a regional commander was overheard demanding the captain of an artillery battery in a Government-held suburb of Damascus to fire chemical shells.
When the officer protested, he was told “in direct terms” that failure to comply would result in him facing a firing squad, and the chemical weapons were then fired.
The dramatic revelation, disclosed by a high-placed RAF source, came as the defiant Syrian government declared it was “fully ready” with “its finger on the trigger” for an expected US attack.
And it adds to the “evidence from thousands of sources” which US Secretary of State John Kerry has said places the chemical attacks firmly at the door of forces loyal to President Bashir Assad.
Last night the senior RAF officer said: “The commander of the artillery battery told the regional commander that he would not comply and there was a heated exchange. He was told in direct language that unless the order was carried out, he would be shot. A total of 27 chemical artillery shells were then fired at the suburb in a 14-minute period.”
The conversation was monitored and recorded by British officers based at the remote mountain-top RAF Troodos Signals Intelligence listening post in Cyprus and within minutes details of the conversation had been relayed to GCHQ, Whitehall and the Pentagon.