An Assad acknowledges the use of barrel bombs against human ‘insects’

For Rifaat Ali al-Assad, a relative of President Bashar al-Assad, the bombs proved useful against the regime’s enemies and opponents. According to activist groups, the army used them 82,000 times, killing over 11,000 civilians, including 1,821 children and 1,780 women. In 93 attacks the devices were filled with poisonous gas or chemicals.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – For the first time, a member of the Assad clan has admitted that Syrian army used barrel bombs against opposition fighters and civilians during the darkest years of the Syrian civil war.

NGOs had made the charge several times in the past, but an outraged Syrian regime had always forcefully rejected it.

In a live stream on his Facebook page last Saturday, Rifaat Ali al-Assad, a relative of President Bashar al-Assad, said that “we came with the barrel bombs. What's a barrel bomb? It's good. Useful for cleansing the earth of these insects.”

The words by a member of Syria’s ruling family represent the first time someone admits to using this weapon, an improvised and inexpensive explosive device that can be dropped from an airplane on large areas.

At the height of the conflict, the regime used it frequently, at least this is the accusation by its enemies and detractors, including on civilian areas, on the pretext of fighting “terrorists”, a generic term used for anyone who opposes the Assad regime.

The Syrian government and its Russian ally have repeatedly denied having and using this weapon, especially against the population.

Also thre is nothing new in the use of derogatory terms such as "insects" by people in or close to the ruling family and government, who have been accused in recent years of "genocide" against their own people.

Last year, the Syrian health minister used similar language when he said that there were no cases of COVID-19 in the country because the “army purified” the territory “of many germs”.

In 2015, in an interview with the BBC, President Bashar al-Assad denied the use of barrel bombs stating however, in a tone halfway between the ironic and the sarcastic, that even "cooking pots" can be used as a weapon against the opposition.

In reality, the issue is far more serious and complex with activist groups reporting tens of thousands of cases in which bombs were used by the army against people, including civilians.

According to a recent report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the loyalist army dropped nearly 82,000 barrel bombs in nine years hitting civilian areas under the control of the opposition or extremist groups, killing 11,087 civilians, including 1,821 children and 1,780 women.

In at least 93 attacks, the bomb barrels were also filled with poisonous gas or chemicals, used in particular in the provinces of Damascus, Aleppo, Daara and Idlib. The highest number of victims was recorded in Aleppo.