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Head of Syria research centre killed in car bombing

The head of a Syrian research facility that Western countries say was part of a chemical weapons programme was killed when his car was blown up, the pro-Syrian government newspaper al-Watan said on Sunday.

Aziz Asber was the director of the Syrian Scientific Research Centre in Masyaf, near the city of Hama, which Western governments say was a covert Syrian government installation.

“(Asber) died after an explosion targeted his car in the Hama countryside,” al-Watan said in an online report.

The explosion occurred on Saturday night, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitoring group said. Who or what caused it is not known.

The Masyaf facility has previously been hit by what the Syrian government said were Israeli strikes in July and last year in September.

In April, missile strikes by the United States, Britain and France destroyed a Syrian Scientific Research Centre facility in Damascus, in response to a suspected poison gas attack.

The Syrian government, backed by Russia, has denied using – or possessing – chemical weapons.

An Israeli government official declined to comment on reports of Asber’s death when asked by Reuters.

Israeli Construction Minister Yoav Gallant, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, speaking to Israel’s Ynet TV said: “There is a war raging in Syria. A lot of sides are involved. There are a lot of interests … I read about him in the newspaper. He does not sound like a positive guy, to me.”

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