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In the vicinity of Assad's Palace, Chemical Facility, Secret Prison: Data, Images

Special Reports | 2018-08-29 09:50:00
In the vicinity of Assad's Palace, Chemical Facility, Secret Prison: Data, Images
(Zaman Al Wasl)- Al well-informed source, close to the regime, has revealed the existence of a secret prison, that was established during the early years of Bashar al-Assad's reign in 2000, in the vicinity of the presidential palace, “The People’s Place”, which is the regime's largest and most extensive Presidential castle, that is surrounded by the widest "prohibited" military areas, known as the "palace sector".

The source met with the reporter of “Zaman al-Wasl” in one of the European countries, provided the details of the secret prison, which he, personally, had contributed to its construction while serving in one of the Republican Guard’s units, which is the main responsible military unit of the protection of Assad and his strongholds in the capital.

According to our source, the secret prison near the People's Palace was put into work at the end of 2002, about a year and a half after Bashar’s office inauguration, who has repeatedly mentioned and promised development, and a comprehensive reform.

The commander of the construction workshop in the 289th Battalion of the Republican Guard Marwan Mahmud (who comes from Chalfatia, the rural areas of Lattakia), was the responsible officer of the construction site of the secret detention center. The construction staff were escorted to the construction site -among the staff was our source- In an attempt to deceive and hide the true function of the under construction building, they were told by the commander that the prison is a mere alternative to the prison of “Al-Tahouna”, the building that was purchased by the Ministry of Information.

The “Al-Tahouna” prison was located directly behind the building of the General Authority for Radio and Television in the center of Damascus, in-between the Authority  building and the one of the Ministry of Higher Education. The prison’s main function was to provide a specialized detaining center for the members of the Republican Guard who show any suspicious behavior. Nevertheless the “Al-Tahouna” still exists until the very moment, regardless of the lies of the commander of the 289th battalion. The construction staff began to build the new prison, bearing in mind the serious consequences of leaking any information about the new buildings’ location or function.

The prison’ construction work lasted about two years, our source claimed that he himself participated in the construction of a large dormitory in this prison. It is 30 meters long, 16 meters width and 4.5 meters height. This dormitory was divided into uniform cells (290 x 260 cm). Separated by corridors of an approximately one meter width.

A collective bathroom for detainees was built, alongside the dormitory, not far from the prison administration officials’ office, all surrounded by a guard tower.

At first, the workshop staff used brick blocks to build the interior walls of the cells, however, After paying an inspection visit, the commander of the Republican Guard, Ali Mahmoud Hassan, ordered the demolition and the reconstruction of the walls using the reinforced concrete, and adding to the walls’ height from 2.5 up to 4.5 meters.

The the commander’s order following his visit, indicates the security appropriate to the sensitivity of the information about the detainees’ that necessitates an alarming high level of security.

The security appropriate to the sensitivity of the information, was revealed to our source as he was working in the prison construction site (end of 2003), when two large military trucks were brought in with long bearded elderly people, who were likely to be old detainees. They were transferred from another prison, that could be “Tadmur” prison.

At that moment, neither our source nor anyone else would dare to ask about any information concerning these people, because such move would be considered by the regime as a capital crime (spying) punishable by a life time sentence or even punishable by death.

The correspondent source noted to our newspaper, that he has been continuously checking any changes on the site of the secret prison, through the aerial images captured using a specialized application, he has noticed that throughout the past couple of years the prison’s building has been added an annex by the regime. He insisted that the new extension didn’t exist before his demobilization from the military service
Furthermore, the source provided "Zaman al-Wasl" with the necessary aerial photographs which illustrate the location of the secret prison and its annexed buildings. He even drew a simplified plan for the prison.

The secret prison was not the only suspicious matter that he noticed during his service time at the palace sector. The palace sector stretches over vast areas characterized by its rugged nature and its branch roads that leads to several sensitive building, including the palace of Maher al-Assad, the Republican Guard’s security office, the military battalion of The Chemicals).

During his military service, the source worked in the construction of an underground "headquarters" about 20 meters under, overlooking the “Mezzeh” military airport, which in turn includes a large detention center run by the regime's intelligence.

The "headquarters" was constructed of fully reinforced concrete, and covered with tar, to ensure its isolation, so that it would be similar to the Kaaba, as seen from above. 

Indeed, Colonel Marwan Al-Mahmoud has already collected a number of "Halabis", and ordered them to "circumnavigate the Kaaba", obliging them to bark like dogs while rotating. The "source" witnessed the session of the torture, which was orchestrated by Colonel "Mahmoud" and his nephews (of the Jaber’s), who helped him dominating the “Chalfattia”, the birthplace of Colonel Marwan Mahmoud, the very place that is considered the hometown of serious criminal figures, and the most prominent sponsors and financier of the Shabihah  "Ayman Jaber" and his brother Mohammad.

The torture incident that was witnessed by our source and by the rest of the eyewitnesses, was a clear explicit message conveyed by the Republican Guard officer, to humiliate the individuals of a certain sect and deliberately insult their beliefs.

Nevertheless, it took him days to discover the existence of more sensitive sites in the vicinity of the "Palace of the People" and the secret prison. The source claimed that he was once called by Colonel "Marwan Mahmood" and ordered to ride with him his SUV to accomplish a "mission”, only to find himself few moments later before the headquarters of the battalion of The chemicals of the Republican Guard, located in the "palace sector", which had been visited previously by our source, but the "visit" was different this time, where he was accompanied with other elements to a tunnel adjacent to the battalion entrance, that was composed of 4 doors; A front door of the tunnel designed of a typical style, so as not to attract attention, followed by 3 armored doors, each door is of 3.5 meters width and about 4 meters height, and about 25 cm thickness.

Within this tunnel, our source came across a number of North Korean experts who came to supervise the installation of air-suction devices.

Zaman Al Wasl source could not explore the inside of the tunnel, because his mission was limited to the contribution to the installation of air-suction devices. Of course he did not dare to ask the question, but what caught his attention was the existence of the tunnel was directly next to the chemical battalion. Adding to the fact that experts from North Korea joined the construction site, and regarding its location and design (armored doors, suction devices ..) he came to the conclusion that the tunnel is likely to be a storage facility of ammunition and chemical weapons.

Since our source is all knowledgeable about the tunnel’s location, entrance and exit, we have been able to measure the length using an application, which appeared to be about 500 meters long (about half a kilometer).

According to the source, his continuous check up and follow-up of aerial photographs of the region, showed that the regime in the aftermath of the major massacre of the chemical, of the summer of 2013, the regime decided to evacuate the chemical battalion, in anticipation of any potential bombing of their headquarters, or as camouflage from the inspection teams, which came later to oversee destruction of the chemical program of the regime. The source suggested the hypothesis of the evacuation, after observing the absence of the vehicles of the chemical battalion, that used to be parked at that site in the past.

In addition to the secret prison and the tunnel approximate to the chemical battalion of the Republican Guard, Our source evokes a vivid memories of the image of the office of security of the Republican Guard, which is also located in the "palace's sector", where it was obliged to sign down the “security clearance” a document of his discharge dossier, which is a document to signed by every and each military agent, regardless of the rank, to be signed by the, to certify that the discharged is disarmed of any items that were in his custody, from weapons and ammunition to military batons.

At that time, a volunteer officer from the “Alawite” sectarian armed forces advised our source not to go alone to the Security Guards’ office, to sign his "security clearance", and promised to escort him. While accompanying him, he pointed to the door of a tunnel located within the boundaries of the office, and told him that any car, including its passengers, entering the tunnel is taking a one way path, with no return (the security office appears clear, next to the door of the tunnel as documented by the aerial photos attached).

The source pointed out, at the conclusion of his testimony, that the service in the Republican Guard in general, and within the palace sector in particular, was of a highly sensitive nature, which put the military agent under the close surveillance of the regime.

This surveillance, coupled with the complaints, would expose the military agent to potential arrests and severe torture for the slightest suspicion. It may even cause his final disappearance, as happened with a military agebt from the “Ghouta” area, who were kidnapped and disappeared after the regime found a notebook in his pocket, in which to record his memoirs.

Zaman Al Wasl- Ethar Abdul Haq
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