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UN says Syrian regime used sarin gas

October 27, 2017

A UN panel has confirmed the Syrian regime used sarin gas at Khan Sheikhun in April. The US responded to the attack by launching cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase.

Syrien Idlib Giftgasangriff
Image: Getty Images/AFP/O. Haj Kadour

The Syrian government was responsible for a deadly sarin gas attack in April on a rebel-held town in Idlib province, UN investigators said on Thursday.

The UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) panel said in a joint report that it was "confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Sheikhun on 4 April 2017."

"Sarin was delivered via an aerial bomb that was dropped by an airplane," the report said.

At least 87 people, including children, died in the nerve gas attack.

Read: Syria's chemical weapons, explained

Images from the scene led to an international outcry, prompting the United States to launch cruise missiles at the airbase from which intelligence suggested the attack was launched.

The panel, which was tasked with identifying other groups that used chemical weapons, also found the "Islamic State" used mustard gas in the town of Um Hosh in northern Aleppo in September 2016.

The panel report comes two days after Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to extend the mission set up to identify perpetrators of chemical weapon attacks in Syria. Russia said it wanted to examine the results from the panel before approving an extension.

Syrien Giftgasangriff in Khan Sheikhun Bodenproben
A photo from Khan Sheikhun shows a man collecting samples from a crater left created by the sarin gas attack. Image: Getty Images/AFP/O. Haj Kadour

Russia 'ignoring evidence'

Russia and Syria deny sarin gas was used in Khan Sheikhun.

They claim that the nerve agent was likely released by a bomb on the ground, or after an airstrike hit a rebel weapons depo.

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said after the release of the report on Thursday that "time and again, we see independent confirmation of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime."

"Ignoring the overwhelming amount of evidence in this case shows a purposeful disregard for widely agreed international norms," Haley said in a statement. "The Security Council must send a clear message that the use of chemical weapons by anyone will not be tolerated, and must fully support the work of the impartial investigators."

Syria was supposed to remove or destroy all of its chemical weapons by June 2014 under a deal brokered by the United States and Russia after the regime was suspected of carrying out a chemical attack in Ghouta, near Damascus, in August 2013. 

Syria signed onto the Chemical Weapons Convention and committed to destroying its chemical weapons stockpiles under international supervision after a US and French threat to carry out military action following the Ghouta attack.

cw/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters)