Chlorine gas likely used in Saraqib attack, chemical weapons watchdog finds

Evarado Alatorre
May 16, 2018

The global chemical weapons watchdog says chlorine was likely used as a weapon in the Syrian town of Saraqib in early February, the latest report of poison gas being unleashed in Syria's civil war.

The OPCW is also now investigating a suspected chemical attack last month in the then rebel-held town of Douma, in which medics say 40 people were killed. Aspects of the evidence gathered at Saraqeb and Douma are very similar, weapons experts said. The OPCW does not have the document establishes who is responsible for the use of banned chemical weapons, writes Reuters. The document was also submitted to the Security Council through the United Nations secretary-general.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons released details of a report into the chlorine use on Wednesday.

The team's conclusions were based on finding two cylinders that were determined as previously containing chlorine.

In addition, the OPCW said environmental samples had demonstrated the unusual presence of chlorine in the local environment. Its team had also interviewed witnesses, and found that a number of patients at medical facilities shortly after the incident showed signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine.

Eleven people had to be treated for breathing difficulties on February 4 after Syrian government raids on the town of Saraqeb, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at the time.

Medics and activists said at the time that chlorine-filled bombs had been dropped by a government helicopter.

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The Syrian government produced a three-page denial of responsibility, and failed to answer a further set of OPCW questions sent on 14 March. "Such acts contradict the unequivocal prohibition against chemical weapons enshrined in the Chemical Weapons Convention".

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 team exhumed bodies as well as gathering over 100 environmental samples which are being analyzed in different OPCW-designated labs.

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

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has been working privately to bridge the differences between Russian Federation and the west on how to reform the OPCW so that it has powers to attribute responsibility.

The OPCW added that "the FFM's mandate is to determine whether chemical weapons or toxic chemicals as weapons have been used in Syria".

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