Aftermath of attack in Douma
Aftermath of attack in Douma Reuters

International inspectors on Sunday launched an investigation into an alleged chemical attack near Damascus last week, AFP reported.

A team of chemical experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), based in The Hague, arrived in Damascus hours after Saturday’s joint air strikes by the U.S., Britain and France which came in response to the attack.

They have been tasked with investigating the site of the April 7 attack in the town of Douma, just east of the capital Damascus, which Western powers said involved chlorine and sarin and killed dozens.

They arrived in Damascus on Saturday but there were no reports they had travelled to Douma to begin their field work, as announced by a senior Syrian official earlier.

In February, the Hague-based organization opened an investigation into reports of the repeated use of chlorine bombs in the district of Eastern Ghouta near the Syrian capital.

The fact-finding team usually starts its investigation by meeting top officials but any talks were held behind closed doors and both parties imposed a strict media blackout, noted AFP.

"We will ensure they can work professionally, objectively, impartially and free of any pressure," Syria’s Assistant Foreign Minister Ayman Soussan told the news agency.

The OPCW itself had declared that the Syrian government's chemical weapons stockpile had been removed in 2014, only to confirm later that sarin was used in a 2017 attack in the northern town of Khan Sheikhun.