Inspectors Say Chlorine Gas Was Likely Used in Syria
Chemical weapons inspectors who came under attack while investigating claims of chlorine gas attacks in Syria last month found information suggesting that similar chemicals had indeed been used, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Tuesday.
According to Reuters, the OPCW, which is overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical stockpile, said inspectors had information pointing to chlorine gas-like chemicals having been used despite having been forced to cut short their mission after the attack.
"Despite the grave incident which prevented the fact-finding mission from conducting an important field visit, the team was able to prepare a preliminary report," the organization said in a statement quoted by the news agency.
"The information that was available to the fact-finding mission lends credence to the view that toxic chemicals - most likely pulmonary irritating agents, such as chlorine - have been used in Syria," the body said.
The inspectors, from a joint OPCW/United Nations fact-finding team, were travelling to the central province of Hama to investigate allegations of illegal chlorine attacks by government forces when their convoy came under attack, according to the report.
No team members were injured in the attack, which the Syrian government blamed on rebel fighters.
Activists in Syria said several months ago that over 100 people had been killed in a chlorine gas attack in the town of Talmenes in Idlib province, and the United Nations Security Council has called for an investigation into the alleged attack. Since then there have been reports of other such attacks.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last month that he has seen “raw data” indicating that the Syrian government has used chlorine gas as a chemical weapon in a “number of instances” in recent months.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, whose forces have been battling rebels trying to unseat him for more than three years, agreed last year to hand over Syria's entire chemical weapons stockpile after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack near Damascus.
Syria has emphatically denied that it carried out chlorine gas attacks against civilians.