Weapons watchdog confirms sarin attack in Syria
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.