Report: Syria's Chemical Weapons Stored in 20 Sites Around Country

Country has several tons of chemical weapons and materials, including sarin gas, U.S. and Middle Eastern intelligence officials tell the Washington Post.

The Syrian government has stored its chemical weapons and materials in some twenty sites around the country, according to a Washington Post report published on Thursday.

The report cited unnamed American and Middle Eastern officials, who also said there could be additional sites of which they were unaware.

The officials said their governments believe Syria has several tons of chemical weapons and materials, including weapons-ready sarin gas, and that the most dangerous elements of the arsenal are stored in bunkers.

The officials also said that U.S. intelligence agencies are monitoring the facilities, and have plans to secure them in the event that the situation in the country spins further out of control.

They added that the country's chemical weapons arsenal was developed for use against Israel in a war, with the help of North Korea and Russia.

An American intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post that foreign governments were surprised "both in terms of quantities and locations" of chemical weapons stored in Libya, when foreign experts were sent in to secure and remove such weapons.

Various areas of the country have effectively been abandoned by the regime of President Bashar Assad - the Free Syrian Army claims control over up to half the country – leading to fears that chemical weapons facilities could be looted, with weapons ending up in the hands of radical Islamists or Hezbollah.

However, the report also noted that the weapons would still have to be combined and loaded into shells, a process that demands technical knowledge.  

Thus far, according to the officials, there is no evidence that the regime is preparing to use the weapons against rebels in the immediate future.

Syrians check the site of government forces bombing at the Syrian town of Azaz