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 Irish Mail on Sunday - - ATTACK ON SYRIA - By Nick Craven, Mark Ni­col and Peter Allen

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

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