03/20/2013, 00.00
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Aleppo, chemical weapons used on civilians

A Khan al-Assal, in the province of Aleppo, 25 people die and 110 in serious condition from gas asphyxiation. Regime and rebels exchange blame over possession and use of chemical weapons. For the UN Secretary General "an outrageous crime."

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Bashar Al-Assad regime and the rebels accuse each other of using chemical weapons on Khan al-Assal in provincial Aleppo, where yesterday a "dense smoke" killed 25 people and left 110 wounded, most of them with the principles of asphyxiation. Bashar Jaafari, the Syrian ambassador to the UN accuses "terrorist groups" of firing a rocket load of chemicals. Ghassan Hitto, Interim Prime Minister of the exiled opposition instead accuses Assad's forces of having used chemical agents since the beginning of the conflict.

It had emerged several times as one of the main risks of the conflict, but this is the first time in two years of war that bombs or missiles with chemical warheads have been used. Although at present there is still no evidence to accuse the regime or the rebels for such actions, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, defines the use of such weapons "as an outrageous crime." Üzümcü Ahmed, Director General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said that "we are deeply concerned about the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria."

On the diplomatic front everyone is confused and depend on the statements, often tendentious, from both sides. Yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry gave credence to the version of the Syrian government, saying in a statement "that weapons of mass destruction have fallen into the hands of rebel fighters."

The United States and Europe have criticized Moscow and are wary of the accusations against the rebels of the Free Syrian Army. Britain and France have recently confirmed their support to the armed anti-Assad militias see the problem of chemical weapons as a call to direct intervention in the conflict. Mark Lyall Grant, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations states that "if there really has been the use of chemical warheads, this requires a serious response by the international community."

In the chaos of the blame game between Syrian regime, rebels and the international community, the location of the chemical weapons, their size and dimension remains unknown. According to a report by the Congressional Research Service of the United States, in recent decades, the Assad regime has accumulated stockpiles of nerve agents such as sarin gas, VX and mustard gas.


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