Head of Syria research centre killed in auto bombing

Syrian scientist Aziz Azbar

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 U.S. describes as Syria's chemical weapons manufacturer.

Western intelligence agents have said the organisation is linked to a Syrian chemical weapons programme.

"(Asber) died after an explosion targeted his vehicle in the Hama countryside", the Al-Watan report said.

The Abu Amara Brigades rebel group claimed responsibility in a statement posted on its Telegram channel, saying it it detonated "planted explosive devices" in Mr Asber's vehicle.

According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Azbar had close ties to Syrian President Bashar Assad and to the Iranian regime.

The attack on Asber was claimed by a Syrian rebel group affiliated to Tahrir Al-Sham, a rebel group.

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And John Bolton, the president's national security adviser, is a well-known Iran hawk who has advocated for regime change. Such qualifications no doubt contribute to the wariness of Iranian officials regarding the possibility of negotiations.

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

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.

A senior Syrian scientist involved in the Assad regime's chemical weapons program was assassinated in Syria.

The research centre that Asber led in the western city of Masyaf has previously been targeted by air strikes.

An Israeli government official declined to comment on reports of Asber's death when asked by the Reuters news agency.

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