Syrian rebels capture nuclear reactor site

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Syrian rebels have captured the site of a suspected nuclear reactor near the Euphrates river which Israeli warplanes destroyed six years ago, opposition sources in eastern Syria have said.

The Al-Kubar site, 35 miles west of the city of Deir al-Zor, became a focus of international attention when Israel raided it in 2007. The US said the complex was a North Korean-designed nuclear reactor geared to making weapons-grade plutonium.

Omar Abu Laila, a spokesman for the Eastern Joint Command of the Free Syrian Army, yesterday said the only building rebels found at the site was a hangar containing at least one Scud 

“It appears that the site was turned into a Scud launch base. Whatever structures it had have been buried,” he said.

The Syrian military, which razed the site after the Israeli raid, said the complex was a regular military facility but refused to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency unrestrained access, after the agency said the complex could have been a nuclear site. UN inspectors examined the site in June 2008 but Syrian authorities have barred them access since.

Mr Abu Laila said Scuds appear to have been fired from Kubar at rebel-held areas in the province of Homs to the west.

The complex, he said, had command and control links with loyalist troops in the city of Deir al-Zor.

Abu Hamza, a commander in the Jafaar al-Tayyar brigade, said in a video taken at Kubar that UN inspectors were now welcome to come and survey the site.