Chlorine ‘likely’ used in Feb. chemical attack in Syria, watchdog says

Chlorine was likely used in a chemical attack on Saraqib in the Idlib province of Syria in February, the Organization for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons said.

Chlorine was likely used in a February attack on Saraqib in the Idlib province of Syria, the Organization for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons said. File photo by Bart Maat/EPA-EFE
Chlorine was likely used in a February attack on Saraqib in the Idlib province of Syria, the Organization for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons said. File photo by Bart Maat/EPA-EFE

In a statement released Wednesday, the international chemical weapons watchdog said it determined chlorine was “released from cylinders by mechanical impact” on neighborhoods in Saraqib during the Feb. 4 attack. A total of 11 people were injured, all of them men.

The group said it came to its conclusion based on the presence of two cylinders at the site, which were determined to previously contain chlorine, along with witness testimony and environmental samples that demonstrated the unusual presence of chlorine. Patients at medical facilities shortly after the incident also showed signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine and other toxic chemicals.

“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 acts contradict the unequivocal prohibition against chemical weapons enshrined in the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

The OPCW doesn’t have the power to attribute responsibility for the attacks but said its mission in Syria confirmed with a “high degree of confidence” that chlorine, sulfur mustard and sarin were used as weapons in the country since 2014.

In response to an April chemical attack in Douma that killed dozens of people, Britain, France and the United States fired cruise missiles on what officials said were Syrian government chemical weapons sites.

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the chemical attack was staged by special agents of a foreign country and claimed Russian scientists found no trace of chemical weapons.

The OPCW will soon report on whether chemical weapons were used in the Douma attack.

By Sara Shayanian