Chemical proof that damns Assad
New pictures emerge of gas canister on roof of building where civilians were killed in Douma ... as French dossier reveals 44 incidents of toxic agents used in combat
THE US, Britain and France yesterday presented overwhelming evidence to nail Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime as the culprit in the horrific chemical attack on civilians which provoked yesterday’s wave of air strikes.
Compelling new details emerged from Paris as the French government presented a declassified report from its DGSE overseas intelligence service, the equivalent of Britain’s MI6. It came as British prime minister Theresa May said all evidence pointed to Assad being behind the Douma attack because:
Two Mi-8 ‘Hip’ helicopters from his regime were spotted above the city in the hours before the attack – none of the opposition forces has a helicopter.
A barrel bomb was used to deliver the chemicals – a weapon that the rebels do not use.
A yellow compressed-gas canister of a type known to have been used before by the Assad regime was photographed on the roof of a building where a large number of the dead were found.
Syria has failed to fulfil an agreement to dismantle its chemical weapons store under the supervision of international agencies, and Mrs May claimed it still had undeclared stocks.
The French dossier claimed the attack in Douma on April 7 – believed to have killed at least 75 people – could have been the 12th time the so-called ‘red line’ on the use of chemical weapons was crossed in the past year.
The French spy agency, known to have sources on all sides of the Syrian conflict, said: ‘Since April 2017 [the Sarin attack which sparked a previous US missile strike on Syria], the Syrian regime has increasingly used chemical weapons and toxic agents in its military operations.’
The report concluded that of 44 alleged incidents where chemical weapons or toxic agents were used, ‘the evidence collected around 11 of the attacks gave reason to assess that they were of a chemical nature’. It added: ‘Chlorine is believed to have been used in most cases, while the services also believe a neurotoxic agent was used at Harasta on November 18, 2017.’
The report says that expert analysis of online video and photo evidence of the Douma attack showed that ‘no deaths from mechanical injuries were visible’.
It said: ‘All of these symptoms were characteristic of a chemical weapons attack, particularly choking agents and organophosphorus agents or hydrocyanic acid.
‘Given the ongoing military operations in Eastern Ghouta around April 7, we assess with a high degree of confidence that the Syrian regime holds responsibility.’
Investigative journalism site Bellingcat.com pointed out that the type of canister found and the use of Mi-8 helicopters matched previous incidents in which the regime used chlorine. A US official said last night Washington had evidence that both sarin and chlorine were used in Douma. Damascus and Moscow have denied any involvement in the attack, with Russian officials saying their experts had found no trace of chemical weapons in Douma, and then claiming the attack had been staged by rebels. On Friday, Moscow even claimed Britain ‘staged’ the attack.
Leading British WMD expert Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon said there was no doubt Syria was behind the Douma attack, because only a state actor possessed the facilities to manufacture and use.
‘You cannot produce a complex nerve agent in your shed. The agent used in Douma was a sophisticated product and the mixing of the precursor substances requires a lot of skill and training. In using chemical weapons, Assad was only doing what he has done, and what he has got away with doing many times.’
‘Syria has increased its toxic strikes in past year’
Another gas canister which was found after a Syrian attack in Hamoriye, near Douma, last month. French government officials say the Assad regime has used chemical weapons 12 times in the past 12 months ...AND ANOTHER UNEARTHED NEAR DOUMA
A gas canister found by the civil defence group, the ‘White Helmets’, in Douma – on the roof of a building where a large number of those killed in the April 7 chemical weapons atrocity were found THE EVIDENCE: COMPRESSED GAS CANISTER