Aftermath of Idlib chemical attack
Aftermath of Idlib chemical attack Reuters

French intelligence services have scientific proof that the Syrian regime was responsible for a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed 88 people, France's foreign minister said Wednesday, according to AFP.

The minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said analysis of samples taken at the scene of the April 4 attack in rebel-held Khan Sheikhun, in which 31 children were among the dead, showed "there is no doubt that sarin gas was used" and that it was produced by Syrian laboratories.

"There is no doubt about the responsibility of the Syrian regime given the way that the sarin used was produced," Ayrault told journalists after the report was presented at a meeting of French defense chiefs.

Ayrault indicated last week that France's intelligence services have evidence that the Syrian government carried out the attack.

On Wednesday, he said the substance France believes was used in the attack contains hexamine, a component that was also found in a gas attack in Saraqib, northwest Syria, in 2013.

"We are able to confirm that the sarin used on April 4 is the same sarin that was used in an attack in Saraqib on April 29, 2013," he said, according to AFP.

Ayrault added that the chemical fingerprint is "typical of the method developed in Syrian laboratories".

"This (production) method bears the regime's hallmarks and allows us to determine its responsibility for this attack," he noted.

The report added that "the presence of hexamine indicates that this manufacturing process is that developed by the Scientific Studies and Research Center for the Syrian regime".

The report said the analysis was carried out by comparing "environmental samples" found at Khan Sheikhun with unexploded ordnance found at the site of the 2013 attack.

Western governments have accused Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s government of being behind the attack, but Assad has repeatedly denied his government has any chemical weapons after agreeing to give them up to international monitors in 2013.

In fact, Assad two weeks ago claimed that the Khan Sheikhun attack was fabricated by the United States, insisting the Syrian army had already relinquished its chemical weapons reservoir.

The Syrian government surrendered its chemical weapons arsenal to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) international watchdog, though since that time the OPCW has determined that civilians in Syria may have been exposed to chemicals.