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OPCW takes samples from alleged attack site in Douma

April 21, 2018

The global chemical weapons watchdog has taken samples from the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria. The watchdog's access to the site comes after days of delays.

Scene in Douma
Image: picture-alliance/AP/H. Ammar

The international chemical weapons watchdog on Saturday said a team of inspectors had visited the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said the fact-finding mission team had collected samples for analysis from the site of the alleged April 7 attack, which resulted in retaliatory missile strikes by the United States, Britain and France.

Read more: Airstrikes in Syria: What you need to know

Earlier on Saturday, Russia's Foreign Ministry said the OPCW team was on its way to Douma. It had been delayed for several days as it tried to reach the site. France and the United States accused Russia of obstructing access.

"The security of the OPCW has been guaranteed not only by the Syrian side but also by the Russian command in Syria," Russia's Foreign Ministry said.

Russia supports Syrian President Bashar Assad's army and has denied claims that Syrian forces carried out the alleged attack.

Possible second Douma visit

"The samples collected will be transported to the OPCW Laboratory in Rijswijk and then dispatched for analysis to the OPCW's designated labs," the organization said.

Based on the analysis of the sample results and other information and materials, the team will compile a report to be submitted to the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention for their consideration.

"The OPCW will evaluate the situation and consider future steps including another possible visit to Douma," the OPCW said.

The Russians in Syria - Who Do You Believe?

Rebels surrender more territory

Also on Saturday in Syria, anti-regime fighters and civilians were bused out of a northeast Damascus suburb, after rebel forces agreed to cede the territory to Assad's forces, which are backed by Russia and Iran.

State news agency SANA said buses started leaving a town in East Qalamun, 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Damascus. 

Syrian state television reported 3,200 militants and their families were to be transported to Idlib and Jarabulus, a rebel-held area along the Turkish border.

Earlier this week, rebels agreed to surrender the town of Dumayr, an enclave northeast of Damascus. About 5,000 people, including 1,500 fighters, left the town.

law/ng (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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