05/17/2018, 10.18
SYRIA
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Syria, the OPCW confirms use of chemical weapons in February attack

In Saraqeb an "unusual presence" of chlorine was found. The gas reportedly "released by cylinders" following a "mechanical impact". The authors of the attack remain unknown. Results of the Douma investigation pending; corpses exhumed and soil samples taken.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In February, during an attack on the Syrian city of Saraqeb, in the north of the country, chlorine was "probably used" as a chemical weapon ". This was stated by experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who found traces of gas "released by cylinders" following a "mechanical impact".

In line with the assigned mandate, the experts did not want to indicate who, between the government army and rebel militias fighting against President Bashar al-Assad, used the chemical weapons. At the time of the attack, doctors and activists had spoken of chlorine bombs launched by government helicopters

In the context of the exploratory mission to Saraqeb, controlled by the opposition and the target of government attacks in recent months, experts have found two cylinders containing traces of chlorine. At the same time, some samples taken from the ground revealed an "unusual presence" of the gas. At the time of the attack at least 11 people had reported difficulty breathing.

Damascus had repeatedly denied the use of chemical weapons.

During the investigation, the OPCW experts interviewed local witnesses, who spoke of "corresponding" symptoms "to an exposure to chlorine". Ahmet Uzumcu, Director of OPCW, condemned "the use of toxic chemicals as weapons, regardless of the places and circumstances".

The attention of international diplomacy, however, is focused on the results of another OPCW mission, still underway in Douma, on the outskirts of Damascus. In early April, the government army attacked the area, allegedly using - according to the United States and anti-Assad front - chemical weapons and causing at least 40 dead and dozens injured.

The operation triggered the response from Washington, London and Paris, which launched a series of punitive raids against military targets in Syria. Experts have exhumed some cadavers and taken soil samples, currently being studied in several laboratories.

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