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Sarin used in Syria attack, says OPCW

June 30, 2017

The nerve agent sarin was used in an April attack on a Syrian town that killed dozens, the international chemical weapons watchdog OPCW has confirmed. But it did not say who was to blame.

Image: picture alliance/ZUMAPRESS.com

Prohibited sarin nerve gas was used in a deadly April 4 attack on a Syrian town in which more than 90 people died, an investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has concluded.

"I strongly condemn this atrocity, which wholly contradicts the norms enshrined in the Chemical Weapons Convention," said OPCW director-general Ahmet Uzumcu in a statement on Friday. "The perpetrators of this horrific attack must be held accountable for their crimes."

The statement said that the organization's fact-finding mission had been able to "attend autopsies, collect bio-medical samples from casualties and fatalities, interview witnesses and receive environmental samples" to back up its conclusions.

The OPCW did not apportion blame in its investigation, but the findings will be used by a joint United Nations-OPCW team to establish who was behind the attack, which sparked worldwide outrage.

The effect of sarin on nerves in the human body

US missile attack

Others have been quicker to point the finger - and even take concrete retaliatory action, with the US conducting a cruise missile assault earlier this year on a Syrian government air base from where it claimed the attack had been launched.

Read: US imposes new sanctions on Syrian officials over chemical attack

People breathing through oxygen masks in Khan Sheikhoun
The use of sarin is prohibited by conventionsImage: Reuters/A. Abdullah

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson also said on Friday that he had "absolutely no doubt" that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the attack on Khan Sheikhoun.

Assad has denied using banned toxins in his country's more than 6-year-old conflict, in which a wide variety of rebels seek to oust him from office.

A provocation?

His ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is giving Assad military support, said earlier this month that he believed the attack was "a provocation" staged "by people who wanted to blame" the Syrian president.

Read: Russia and Syria counter claims of responsibility for "gas attack"

The Syrian government joined the OPCW in 2013 after it was blamed for another deadly poison gas attack in a Damascus suburb. International authorities subsequently destroyed some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons handed over by Damascus.

However, the OPCW has never been able to confirm once and for all that the country does not possess any more chemical weapons.

Read: Syria's chemical weapons, explained

tj/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters)