Five nuclear engineers linked with Syrian regime killed
Conflicting reports have emerged surrounding the killing of five nuclear engineers on the outskirts of Damascus on Sunday. The death of the four Syrians and an Iranian who worked for the Centre for Scientific Research in the Barzeh neighbourhood has raised many questions.
Some reports said they were killed by an improvised explosive device while others said they were killed when the bus they were travelling in was shot at. However, a worker in the research centre at the time of the attack told al-Araby al-Jadeed: "The militants executed the engineers on the ground."
"A group of militants stopped the research centre's bus for employees, which was taking them home after work, close to Maarba Bridge on the al-Tall-Barzeh road," said the worker, who asked to remain anonymous for his own protection. "They checked the engineers' identification, then took them out of the bus, blindfolded them, took them on the side of the road and shot them at point-blank range.
"They then shot at the bus, injuring a number of employees, and then they drove off. The area where this happened is under full control of regime forces and is a few hundred yards from one of their checkpoints, which didn't take action until after the attack was over."
A Barzeh official said that opposition factions could not have helped.
"The scene of the incident is far from Barzeh and opposition fighters wouldn't have been able to get there," he said. "Also, there are a number of regime checkpoints on the way."
No-one has yet claimed responsibly for the attack. The regime blamed "terrorist militants", but has not named a specific group it blames for the killings.
In July 2013, six people were killed and 19 injured when a rocket hit a workers' bus from the same research centre close to Barzeh. On 5 May 2013 Israeli jets were believed responsible for another attack on a research centre in Jamraya, west of Damascus.
All scientific research centres in Syria fall under the auspices of the ministry of defence and their activities are considered top-secret. Employees are under intense security scrutiny and their movements and social interactions are frequently restricted.
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.