Chlorine 'likely' used in February chemical attack in Syria, watchdog says


A still image from a video said to be taken on August 1, 2016, shows a man breathing through a mask in what is said to be in Saraqeb, Syria.

The global chemical weapons watchdog on Wednesday confirmed that chlorine was "likely used as a chemical weapon" in a February attack on the Syrian town of Saraqeb. The OPCW does not have the document establishes who is responsible for the use of banned chemical weapons, writes Reuters.

A fact-finding mission by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) determined that "chlorine was released from cylinders by mechanical impact in the Al Talil neighbourhood of Saraqeb" on Feb 4, an OPCW statement said.

The incident is by no means the worst chemical weapons attack during the seven-year civil war, but it led to 11 people being treated for breathing difficulties.

"We heard people crying for help somewhere on the road and others on the roof of a house", a volunteer with the White Helmets rescue group told the aid organization.

Last month, Russian Federation held a press conference close to the OPCW headquarters in The Hague, at which it produced witnesses that claimed no chemical weapons attack had occurred, and that any choking had been due to dust inhalation.

"I strongly condemn the continued use of toxic chemicals as weapons by anyone, for any reason, and in any circumstances", Ahmet Üzümcü, director-general of the OPCW, said. "Such actions are in direct conflict with the unequivocal prohibition on the use of toxic substances contained in the Convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons".

The conclusions are based on the presence of two cylinders, which were determined as previously containing chlorine, witness testimony and environmental samples confirming "the unusual presence of chlorine", it said. The province is also home to al-Qaida-linked militants.

The FFM is required to study available information relating to allegations of use of chemical weapons in Syria, including information provided by the Syrian Arab Republic and others.

Assad regime forces have carried out 215 chemical attacks against the opposition since 2011, killing almost 1,500 people, including 187 children and 244 women, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR). The organization has not yet issued a report on that attack.