Sarin or similar toxin used in deadly Syria attack, watchdog says

A Syrian man receives treatment after a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, a nearby rebel-held town in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, on April 4, 2017. AFP Photo

Sarin or a similar substance was used in the April 4 attack in Syria’s Idlib province that killed 87 people, a chemical weapons watchdog said on Wednesday, as France vowed to produce evidence that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is to blame.

The finding by the Dutch-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was consistent with earlier testing by Turkish and British laboratories.

Ahmet Uzumcu, OPCW’s director general, said results of the analysis “indicate that sarin or a sarin-like substance was used”.

The finding was based on tests on bio-medical samples collected from three victims during their autopsies that were analysed at two OPCW-designated laboratories, the watchdog said in a statement.

“Bio-medical samples from seven individuals undergoing treatment at hospitals … (also) indicate exposure to sarin or a sarin-like substance,” the statement added.

Western leaders including US President Donald Trump have accused Syria’s Assad of being behind the attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikoun, saying his forces used a chemical weapon during an air strike.

The suspected gas attack killed at least 87 people, including many children, and images of the dead and of suffering victims provoked global outrage.

On Wednesday, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said his government would produce “proof” that the Syrian regime was responsible for the attack.

“We have elements that will allow us to show that the regime knowingly used chemical weapons,” Ayrault told French television.

“In a few days I will be able to bring you the proof,” he added.

Assad has rejected responsibility, arguing in an interview with AFP last week that the alleged chemical attack was a “fabrication” to justify a US missile strike on Syrian forces.

“Definitely, 100 percent for us, it’s fabrication,” he said.

The missile strike was the first direct US military action against Assad’s forces since the start of Syria’s civil war six years ago and precipitated a downward spiral in ties between Washington and Moscow. – FRANCE 24 with AFP, Reuters

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