Worries grow about Islamic extremists gaining chemical, biological weapons in Syria

The United States, Great Britain and other Western nations are becoming increasingly concerned about the prospect of Islamic extremists in Syria acquiring President Bashar al-Assad's stockpile of chemical and biological weapons.

There has been a series of meetings held between European and American officials and regional governments about the issue. General Sir David Richards, the head of the British military, recently raised his worries in Whitehall, according to the Independent.

A British Special Air Service team reportedly attended an exercise in Jordan where U.S. special forces teams trained Jordanian troops for a mission to secure the Syrian government's chemical weapons sites. London said there are currently no plans to deploy British personnel for such missions.

Western officials insist there is a large amount of evidence that Assad still has the means to carry out a chemical or biological attack, but that the regime's command and control structure has been seriously degraded by casualties and defections.

The opposition Free Syrian Army said that the regime has used chemical weapons already on 18 separate occasions. Western officials said photographs and testimonies do not back up the charges.

"If there really was an attack involving Sarin, then one would expect a significant number of fatalities," Dr. Sally Leivesley, an independent chemical and biological analyst, said, the Independent reports. "From what one hears about the symptoms it's possible that a harassing agent rather than a nerve agent was used."