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Investigation finds Syria likely behind 2018 chlorine attack

Investigation finds Syria likely behind 2018 chlorine attack
People stand in front of damaged buildings, in the town of Douma, the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, near Damascus, Syria. (AP)
The Hague, Apr 12 (AP) | Publish Date: 4/12/2021 1:18:39 PM IST

An investigation by the global chemical weapons watchdog found “reasonable grounds to believe” that a Syrian air force military helicopter dropped a chlorine cylinder on a Syrian town in 2018, sickening 12 people, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Monday.

It is the second time that the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team has concluded that Syrian government armed forces likely were responsible for a gas attack. Last year, the team also found reasonable grounds to believe that the Syrian Arab Air Force was responsible for attacks using chlorine and the nerve agent sarin in March 2017 in the town of Latamneh.

Syria has repeatedly been accused of using chemical weapons during the country’s grinding civil war. The government of President Bashar Assad denies the claims.

In the latest report, the OPCW investigation team said it found evidence that a military helicopter belonging to the Tiger Forces of the Syrian air force dropped at least one chlorine cylinder on the rebel-held northern Syrian town of Saraqeb on February 4, 2018. 

“The cylinder ruptured and released chlorine over a large area, affecting 12 named individuals,” the watchdog said in a statement. Those affected all survived, the report said.

As part of the investigation, experts interviewed witnesses, analysed samples and remnants collected from the town as well reviewing symptoms reported by casualties and studying satellite imagery and modelling gas dispersion patterns. The OPCW cannot hold individuals criminally responsible for attacks. The report will be shared with the organisation’s member states and the United Nations. 

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