HACIPASA, Turkey - A senior Syrian military defector said Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces were moving chemical weapons across the country for possible use in a military retaliation for the killing of four top security officials.

"The regime has started moving its chemical stockpile and redistributing it to prepare for its use," said General Mustafa Sheikh, citing rebel intelligence obtained in recent days.

"They are moving it from warehouses to new locations," he told Reuters in an interview in southern Turkey, close to the Syrian border. "They want to burn the country. The regime cannot fall without perpetrating a sea of blood."

Syria's 16-month conflict has been transformed since Wednesday, when a bomb killed four members of Assad's narrow circle of kin and lieutenants, including his powerful brother-in-law, defense minister and intelligence chief.

Sheikh's comments could not be independently verified and Syria has denied any such move.

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