Blast kills head of Syrian arms research program

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Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at the time said the strikes hit the Scientific Studies and Research Centre facility, the agency the USA describes as Syria's chemical weapons manufacturer.

It said Israel was suspected of carrying out the attack.

Asbar headed the Syrian Scientific Research Centre in Masyaf, Hama province, which the U.S. claimed was developing sarin gas used by the Syrian regime. Esber's driver was also killed in the blast, according to the newspaper and the Observatory.

An insurgent group calling itself the Abu Amara Brigades claimed responsibility for the operation.

Israel frequently attacks military targets inside Syria in an attempt to prop up terrorist groups that have been suffering defeats against Syrian government forces.

Western and Israeli intelligence agencies have long linked the SSRC to Syria's chemical weapons program.

The Masyaf research centre was targeted in Israeli airstrikes last month and in September a year ago, the Britain-based monitoring group said.

Syria surrendered its chemical stockpile in 2013 to a mission led by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

A rebel group said it carried out the attack, but there has been speculation that others could be involved. Asbar was not among the targeted individuals.

After hundreds of people were killed in chemical attacks near Damascus in August 2013, a landmark deal with Russian Federation was struck to rid Syria of its chemical weapons stash, staving off USA airstrikes.

A number of Syrian and Lebanese news outlets reported the assassination.

He warned more hostages would be killed if the IS demands were not met. Its contents could not be independently verified.