Terrorist IncidentsThis monthly report has extensive coverage of incidents which took place in the Middle East, specifically pertaining to events in Syria. On 19 March, 31 people were killed, including ten soldiers and 110 others injured in the town of Khan al-Asal in what was suspected to be the first use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict. Witnesses said they could smell chlorine after the attack and it was reported that photos of dead farm animals in a yard, and video footage of survivors struggling to breathe supported that chemical weapons had been used in the attack. Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi said that a home-made rocket was fired at a military checkpoint from the vicinity of Al-Bab, a district close to Aleppo that is controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra. However, a senior rebel commander, Qassim Saadeddine, who is also a spokesman for the Higher Military Council in Aleppo, denied this, blaming Assad's forces for the alleged chemical strike. Syria is suspected to possess one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world, allegedly holding supplies of sarin, mustard and VX gases, all banned under international law. Damascus however denies the claims. Immediately following the alleged attack, the Syrian government demanded an international investigation, and the UN Security Council obliged, created a team with the assistance of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). However, the UN team is waiting for permission from Syria to enter the country to investigate the claims. Other Middle East countries discussed in the report include: Israel and the West Bank, Egypt and Iraq.
Counter-Terrorism ActionIn Cyprus, the report highlighted that Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, a dual Swedish-Lebanese citizen, was found guilty on 21 March, of participating in a plot to attack Israeli tourists visting Cyprus. Authorities said Yaacoub was trained in the use of weapons and scouted sites in Europe, including a Cypriot airport. He admitted that he was a member of Hizballah and to staking out areas frequented by Israeli tourists, but said he did not know his work was part of a plot to kill Israelis. He was found guilty on five of the eight charges against him, including participation in a criminal organization and in the preparation of a criminal act. The three other counts were conspiracy charges, which the ruling said were already covered under the other charges. Yaacoub will be sentenced at a separate hearing. The charges carry a maximum 10 years in prison and a 50,000-euro fine. This was the first time a European court convicted a suspect of plotting to target Israeli citizens abroad on behalf of Hizballah. US authorities hoped the conviction will encourage the European Union to declare Hizballah a terrorist group, restricting the group's ability to recruit and raise funds within Europe.
Other countries covered in the March 2013 IDPR are: Afghanistan, Belgium, China, Ethiopia, France, India, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, Philippines, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, Thailand, United Kingdom and United States.