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Monday, May 17, 2004

Syrian "Technicians" and "Military Material"
Aboard Korean Train that Exploded


This report comes from the Tokyo Sankei Shumbun internet version, and has been translated and published in English by IMRA:
A military source familiar with Korean Peninsula affairs revealed on 6 May that Syrian technicians were killed in a train explosion incident that occurred on 22 April in Yongch'on in the northwestern part of the DPRK and that the damage was especially serious in that section of the train where the Syrians were aboard, along with large equipment.

The same source noted that although the contents of the equipment are
unknown, DPRK military-related personnel wearing protective suits arrived on the scene immediately after the explosion and removed debris only from that section of the train where the Syrian group had been aboard.

Consequently, there is a strong likelihood that the accident occurred when military materials were being secretly transported between the DPRK and Syria.

According to the same source, the technicians aboard the train had been sent from the Syrian technical research center called Centre d'Etudes et de Recherche Scientific (CERS). Although CERS was established to promote science and technology development, it is suspected of playing a major role in Syria's weapons of mass destruction development program.

The technicians and the cargo were reportedly aboard the same section of the train.

The same source said it was uncertain whether the cargo was the source of the explosion or whether it exploded after being set off by an explosion on another section of the train. The source then said, "The damage to that section of the train was the most serious," noting that nearly 10 Syrians and accompanying North Koreans were killed. The bodies of the Syrians were carried onto and transported home on 1 May by a Syrian aircraft, which had come to Pyongyang to deliver aid supplies.

Syrian and DPRK medical and military personnel who were involved in
transporting [the Syrians and other victims] were also reportedly wearing protective suits similar to those worn by the DPRK military personnel who arrived on the scene immediately after the accident.

The same source said, "The action taken by Syria and the DPRK indicates that the cargo was top secret matter, which the two countries did not want to bring out into the open." With regard to the DPRK and Syria, the United States and other countries have indicated concern that the two countries are continuing to cooperate in the development of Syria's "Scud-D" missiles, as well as chemical and biological weapons.

Concerning the cause of the explosion incident, the DPRK has explained that a train carrying fertilizer containing ammonium nitrate and a railroad tank carrying petroleum were being shunted, and, in the process, came into contact with electrical wires, due to carelessness.