WASHINGTON - Syria has begun mixing chemicals that can be used to make deadly sarin gas, a US official told AFP Monday, amid fears that President Bashar al-Assad's forces could attack rebels with chemical weapons.
"We've picked up several indications which lead us to believe that they're combining chemical precursors," the official said, on condition of anonymity, adding that the operation was apparently aimed at making sarin.
Earlier, CNN reported that Washington believed that Assad's regime was considering the feasibility of putting sarin into artillery shells for use in a limited chemical strike against opposition soldiers.
And Wired.com's military blog Danger Room, which first reported the apparent Syrian move, said the mixing of chemicals started last week and was being carried out by engineers in central Syria.
The operation had reached the point where sarin could be loaded on a plane and dropped as a weapon, Danger Room quoted an unnamed US official as saying.
Sarin, used in two terror attacks in Japan in the 1990s, is a man-made nerve agent which can cause convulsions, respiratory failure and death.
The intelligence appeared to explain a series of fresh warnings issued by Washington that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad government would cross a "red line" and invite unspecified US action.
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