Weapons watch­dog con­firms sarin at­tack in Syria

The Guardian Weekly - - International news - Martin Chulov Beirut

The nerve agent sarin was used in an at­tack in April on the Syr­ian town of Khan Sheikhun and was likely to have spread from a crater in a road where a pro­jec­tile had hit, the global chem­i­cal weapons watch­dog has con­firmed.

A re­port by the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons (OPCW) also found that hex­am­ine – a com­po­nent of the Syr­ian regime’s stock­piles – was con­tained in sam­ples taken from the scene and from the blood and urine of vic­tims. The OPCW said its man­date was solely to de­ter­mine whether chem­i­cal weapons were used in the at­tack, which killed more than 100 peo­ple and left up to 300 oth­ers con­tam­i­nated. A UN in­ves­tiga­tive task­force will at­tempt to de­ter­mine who was re­spon­si­ble.

The ac­count matches that of vic­tims and wit­nesses, who had said the sarin spread from a rocket, or shell, fired from a Syr­ian jet that had cir­cled above the rebel-held town shortly af­ter 6.30am on 4 April. Syr­ian and Rus­sian of­fi­cials had said the mass ex­po­sure was caused by an op­po­si­tion ware­house be­ing hit. The OPCW re­port made no men­tion of such a ware­house, and a Guardian in­spec­tion of the area within hours of the at­tack found only aban­doned build­ings, none of which had been re­cently hit.

Russia’s for­eign min­istry has said the OPCW re­port was “bi­ased” and based on “doubt­ful ev­i­dence”. But the UK for­eign sec­re­tary, Boris John­son, said he had “ab­so­lutely no doubt the fin­ger points at the As­sad regime … We will drive on with the UK cam­paign to im­pose sanc­tions on those re­spon­si­ble.” Ah­met Üzümcü, the direc­tor gen­eral of the OPCW, said: “The per­pe­tra­tors of this hor­rific at­tack must be held ac­count­able for their crimes.” • A sui­cide car bomber pur­sued by se­cu­rity forces blew him­self up in eastern Da­m­as­cus last Sun­day, killing at least 21 peo­ple. There was no im­me­di­ate claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity, but pre­vi­ous at­tacks in Da­m­as­cus have been claimed by Isis and ri­val ji­hadists.

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