(Zaman Al Wasl)- A special source revealed to Zaman al-Wasl exclusive and highly sensitive information about the secret Zouba Center which regime has chosen for decades to prepare and produce chemicals that were later used to suppress and exterminate the Syrian people.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, had worked as a civil servant at the Zouba Center until 2012. He clarified how he witnessed the places and equipment of the chemical preparation, and how he smelled the emitting smells throughout his service there.
At the beginning, the source pointed out that he had applied for an employment at the 3000 Institute affiliated with the Center for Scientific Research in Barza, north of Damascus. His application got accepted while he was serving in the army. The 3000 Institute summoned him several times to start his job and he told them he had to finish his military service.
As soon as he completed his military service, the source went to the institute to start his work. He was surprised that they had decided to appoint him in a place he had never heard of before. “the post is sensitive and we are working in it to serve homeland and confront Israel,” an institute official told the source. The burly official had grey hair and was wearing civil clothes and speaking the Alwaite dialect. The source was informed that he is the security officer in the research center.
-Next to Scud Division-
The source tries to remember the first time he went to Zouba. He said he arrived in a gloomy place. Later, he realized the place was not only gloomy but also one of the brutal regime strongholds. He says, "I left the institute with two people in Toyota High Luxs heading to Homs road. An hour before we reached al-Nabek city and at a road sign for Yabroud city on the left, there is a well-known road intersection known as Nazlat Hajula, a severe and winding downhill that the car needs 20 mins to pass. In the middle of the downhill, there is military checkpoint to monitor and inspect those who pass along the road.
The source clarifies that when they passed Hajula, they moved 2 km towards al-Nasirya where they encountered a military division on the right. Later it was known this military division is the 155th Brigade (Scud missiles). On the side of the brigade, the car continued road upward in the mountain to reach Zouba which is located in a place overlooking large areas of its surroundings, which is higher than the location of 155th Brigade. The only place higher than Zouba Center is a military division where tanks are deployed.
The source describes Zouba Center from entrance to the last place in it. He explained that the center’s entrance is not any different from regular military divisions’ entrance. There is a room next to the entrance where guards are deployed in shifts who inspect the IDs and register those who enter the center.
After the entrance, there is a two-kilometer-wide road to the heart of the center used to prepare various types of highly toxic and dangerous chemicals. This heart of the center is tunnels, which constitute the larger and more important section of Zouba Center that extends on an area of 2.5 kilometers long and about one kilometer wide.
Like any regime military division, the source saw a few normal buildings close to each other, including the electricity workshop overlooking the north side, and the mechanics workshop, which is about 100 square meters.
Not far from the mechanic workshop, there is a two-story laboratory. The dimensions of floor in the laboratory are about 6 meters by 4 meters. Parallel to it, there is a lathe and next there is the office of the project manager. The grey-haired project manager is a brigadier-general whose last name is Ramadan and originally from Tartos.
Next to these buildings, there are two warehouses; one for electricity and the other for mechanics. They are carved in the mountain, 30 meters long and 8 meters wide, each with a large, wide door of concrete opened by electricity.
- Orange and cappuccino-
Until now, our source felt nothing that he was really in front of a secret and sensitive center, but when a worker at the center volunteered to take him to the tunnels, the scene turned upside down.
The first thing that our source spotted was a large, high concrete door that allows for the passage of huge trucks. Behind the door is a vault of 5 meters or more and a length of about 50 meters. At the end of this vault, there are the so-called two halls which are two big centers for the preparation and production of chemicals.
To the right of the interior to the vault, there is Hall 70 and to the left is Hall 50, both equipped with an independent control room, each with a separate entrance and exit, each of which has a total area of 800 square meters (100 in length and 8 in width).
And in the basement leading to the halls, there is an emergency exit in the event of targeting tunnels or if something extraordinary took place. The exit includes iron ladder whose end leads a hole that puts you near the top of the mountain on which Zouba Center was built and its gloomy tunnels were carved.
Our source asserts that access to the tunnels (manufacturing rooms) requires the wearing of a protective mask (original made in Russia), wearing special shoes and outfit to prevent the person from inhaling any gases or bodily injury with any chemical effects.
The source describes his astonishment at the first time he saw the tunnels and their contents. He could not believe he would see such a scene, indicating that he had reached the end of the halls where the taps and barrels were filled with the final product. He asked the worker about the barrels’ contents. He answered sarcastically, “this is orange and this is a cappuccino. Do not ask this question again if you want your head on.”
The source pointed out that the design of halls 70 and 50 are similar in terms of the presence of control panels and timers, huge glass flasks. The size of the flask is the size of a barrel. There is also a storage space for raw materials. However, each hall is allocated for production of specific types which he could not recognize since those working on the chemical production are volunteer military personnel. On the other hand, the work of the civil employees is outside these halls. They work in power, mechanics and supervising the warehouses.
According to the source, he used to work in Zouba every other day meaning 3 days a week. The shuttle used to pick him up from his house to the center at 9:30 in the morning and he goes back at 8:00 p.m. with other employees.
But the most surprising thing is that the source confirmed work was never interrupted in the halls, which were operating on 24 to 24 shifts system in order to build for the regime an arsenal of chemicals and toxins. The source estimated the production to be between 100 and 120 barrels per week.
According to our source, the number of workers in the halls of chemical productions is 20 workers per shift. The workers ranks’ range between officers and row officers. The total number of workers at Zouba Center is 120 workers; approximately half of them are civil servants.
Concerning the method of transporting the production, the source points out that he has no reliable information about the matter because the transport of production took place after the end of work (after 8:00). Civil servants did not also know. At the same time, he clarified that the center used to receive 2 trucks to 3 large trucks every two weeks. The trucks would unload the raw materials and others in the allocated space. The load allocated for the halls was emptied by volunteer military personnel and what was the share of the warehouses were emptied there.
• The security official advised me on being discreet because we work in the service of the homeland and to confront Israel.
Regarding the names of the active officers at the Zouba Center, the source mentioned Colonel Ali Hatoum, in charge of shifts in the halls. He is a tall bald and slim man from the coast region. The source also mentioned Colonel Mohsen Yousef, in charge of the mechanic workshop and and the security officer of the center Haider al-Ali.
In February 2012, while the staff at Zouba were working, the source was surprised by the visit of the security officer at the Scientific Research Center and his request to meet with the staff to announce the decision of the closure of the center and transfer of staff to the 3000 Institute under the pretext of fear for their safety and to prevent any targeting by armed men.
Here Zaman al-Wasl interrupted the source to ask him if this is indeed the real reason for the closure of the center or the real reason is the proximity of the center to the 155th Brigade allocated for launch of ballistic missiles. In doing so, the regime activity in launching the missiles would go unnoticed. The the source replied in a firm language that the decision to close Zouba was indeed for this purpose- the proximity to the 155 Brigade and for other purposes.
The source cited two things. The first is that the closure order was intended to give a formal justification for the "deportation" of civilian personnel in the center only, whereas the military personnel remained in service. The second is that one of the civilian staff had to get important things from Zouba for work at 3000Institute. After he picked up his things, he told the source that he saw with his own eyes 3 Scud missiles starting from the 155th Brigade to the north, and the regime was keen to hide this from.
But there is something bigger that the regime was trying to keep secret and in a narrow circle which is adding a new and dangerous mission to Zoubo. The mission was creating a line for the manufacture of explosive barrels, part of which was hinted to our source by the same civil servant who was a colleague of our source. The civil servant who had to pick up somethings from the center.
Our source reconfirmed that nobody would think Zouba Center has tunnels or workshops for chemical productions. He added that, “I do not think anyone no matter how insightful could expect a chemical manufacturing site in Zouba. I saw the site less than normal, although they told me it was secret and sensitive, and I kept seeing it even after I entered and wandered, until I reached the "hidden" tunnels, and then I knew the truth hidden behind this center located in a remote spot. Nothing would show the center as being dangerous. It is not protected by strict procedures no screens, no high walls, and everything that shows is a few humble buildings located on a land surrounded by barbed wire.”
The source ruled out that the staff of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had been able to reach the center after the chemical deal sponsored by Russia and the United States. The deal which ordered regime hand over of chemical arsenal. He noted that he does not know exactly neither how old the center is nor the launch year. However, he looked through special records in the center which date back to the year 1984.
The source asserts he did not notice any visits by non-Syrian officials to the center during the time he worked there. Even senior regime officials rarely visited Zouba. He was told that Bashar al-Assad personally visited the center under the rule of his father Hafiz, and then Bashar visited it again when he assumed power. again. Also, regime former minister of defense Mustafa Tlas visited the center and toured the tunnels alone and did not allow any of his guards to tour with him.
According to the source, he never expected that the chemicals he saw being manufactured was being used to kill the Syrian people. The words of the official who advised him to remain discreet still ring in his ears because he will work in a site that " Serves the homeland and confronts Israel. "
Zaman A Wasl