Watchdog: Chlorine used in Syrian town of SaraqebMay 16, 2018 10:34am

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The international chemical weapons watchdog said Wednesday that chlorine was likely used as a weapon in the rebel-held northern Syrian town of Saraqeb in early February, the latest report of poison gas being unleashed in Syria's civil war.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons released details of a report into the chlorine use, but did not say which side in the fighting used it. The OPCW is not mandated to apportion blame for the attack.

The probe into the use of chlorine gas in the Saraqeb attack comes amid the OPCW's investigation into another attack two months later in Douma, near the capital Damascus — a much larger attack in April that triggered U.S., British and French strikes against government posts in Syria a week later.

The OPCW said that its Fact-Finding Mission probing alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria "determined that chlorine was released from cylinders by mechanical impact in the Al Talil neighbourhood of Saraqeb."

On Feb. 4, the White Helmets search-and-rescue group and a medical charity reported that several people suffered breathing difficulties after a suspected chlorine gas attack on Saraqeb, days after the Trump administration accused President Bashar Assad's government of producing and using "new kinds of weapons" to deliver poisonous gases. Damascus denied the White House's charges.

At the time, the White Helmets said three of its rescuers and six other people suffered breathing problems. The Syrian American Medical Society said its hospitals in Idlib treated 11 patients for suspected chlorine gas poisoning.

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu harshly criticized the chemical attack.

"I strongly condemn the continued use of toxic chemicals as weapons by anyone, for any reason, and in any circumstances," Uzumcu said in a statement. "Such acts contradict the unequivocal prohibition against chemical weapons enshrined in the Chemical Weapons Convention."

The OPCW said its team based its findings on evidence including "the presence of two cylinders, which were determined as previously containing chlorine; witness testimony; environmental samples that demonstrated the unusual presence of chlorine in the local environment; and the number of patients at medical facilities shortly after the incident who showed signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine and other toxic chemicals."

Saraqeb is in the northern Idlib province, a stronghold for rebels and opposition to Assad's government. The province is also home to al-Qaida-linked militants. The town has before come under suspected chemical attacks, including in 2016 and in 2013.

The mission also is investigating allegations that poison gas was used in Douma, near the capital Damascus, in a deadly April 7 attack. That attack led to the U.S., France and Britain blaming the Syrian government and launching joint punitive airstrikes targeting suspected Syrian chemical weapons facilities on April 14. The organization has not yet issued a report on that attack.

Assad's forces have repeatedly been accused of using chemical weapons in the civil war. His regime denies the allegations. Rebels also have been accused of using poison gas.


Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb in Beirut contributed to this report.

Page 1 of 1

More Stories Like This

The Latest: Syrian TV reporting military base under attackSyrian TV reports a military base in central Syria has come under attack from "enemy" fire
US warns Syrian government not to advance on southThe United States warned it would take "firm and appropriate measures" to protect a cease-fire in southern Syria if President Bashar Assad's forces move against rebels there
The Latest: Syrian army warns Daraa rebels of nearing attackSyria state-run media says Syrian aircraft have dropped leaflets on rebel-held areas in the country's south warning of an imminent government offensive, and urging fighters to disarm
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks to reporters on Netherlands’ decision along with Australia to hold Russia responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, in The Hague, Friday, May 25, 2018. A day after international prosecutors said they had unequivocal evidence of Russian involvement in the downing of a Malaysian passenger jet over Ukraine nearly four years ago, the Netherlands and Australia on Friday announced they were holding Moscow legally responsible for its role in the missile attack. (AP Photo/Mike Corder)
Netherlands, Australia hold Russia liable for downing MH17
Monitor: Suspected Israeli strike targets Hezbollah in SyriaSyrian war-monitoring group says suspected Israeli strikes hit a Hezbollah base in central Syria
The Latest: Putin denies Russia responsible for MH17 downingThe Latest: Putin denies claims that Russia was responsible for MH17 downing

Related Searches

Related Searches